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And For My Sins...


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By 1971, three years into the Chernarussian War, combat had largely settled into a low-insurgency stalemate. ¬†The defined structure at the onset of the war had largely collapsed into a loose alliance of unconnected, independent militias. ¬†Entirely devoid of any central command organization, some these militias only loosely kept the cause of Chernarussian independence while others abandoned it entirely. ¬†With the Pojańćki Armed Forces in control of cities and main supply routes into and out of Chernarus, these militias largely retreated into the urban areas where they could move more freely and where the advantages of the Pojańćki Armed Forces could be dulled. ¬†They promised to perpetuate a war that had long since lost its meaning and become yet another episode of the historic and seemingly cyclical bloodletting that defined the land of Poja and, like all tales of Poja's historical bloodletting, this one promised not to disappoint.

In autumn 1970, a militia led by Viktor Poltanov took over the area in the vicinity of Zhodyebsk, a large town in a region with around 30,000 people. ¬†Within six months, his militia controlled approximately 1,000 km¬≤ and began to administer a medieval-style justice system that brought him few allies, even amongst the insurgency. ¬†By the beginning of 1971, reports began to emerge out of Zhodyebsk of large numbers of missing persons and by springtime, those reports began to include the discovery of mutilated corpses, not of soldiers but of civilian residents in the region. ¬†When they reached the Pojańćki Armed Forces, the general staff concluded, fairly quickly, that the reports were not only valid but worthy of immediate response. ¬†The first was launched in May 1971 and it was met with failure. ¬†The second was launched in July 1971 with significant loss of life. ¬†This is the story of the third‚Ķ

Edited by Poja (see edit history)
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Chapter I
Nightmares


Friday, 15 October 1971 | 23:18 hrs [UTC-3]
Zhodyebsk Region, Chernarus | Village of Kryboksarsk

Alina sat on the cold, filthy floor, her knees drawn up to her chest and her hands and forearms covering both her eyes and her ears.  Paralyzed by abject terror, her body shivered as much from the damp coldness as it did from the horrors that surrounded her.  She'd long since stopped crying, her eyes having gone dry, stinging every now and then from the grease of her matted hair and the dirt it had picked up along the way of her now nineteen-hour ordeal.  She hadn't eaten, her throat still sore from throwing up, but she hardly had an appetite and hadn't even moved towards the plate of slop that had been slid her way by her guards.  It had sat there, untouched for hours, until it was kicked over when one of her "cellmates" had been dragged out by the hair, kicking, screaming, pleading, begging.  The woman's blood curdling shrieks still echoed in Alina's ears along with the high-pitched scream of the circular saw that had silenced her shrieks.  Alina was trapped in a living nightmare, one she couldn't wake up from because she was awake, living through each and every second of the most agonizing torture she'd ever experienced.

          Her nightmare began two weeks ago, when her family had been visited by Satan's right hand himself, a man known only by his nom de guerre, Belanov.  Belanov was Poltanov's right hand man and the man who did much of his bidding and who meted out his own brand of justice to those who defied not only him but Poltanov.  Belanov was looking for fresh recruits for the militia, which had sustained some losses in a failed attempt at pushing a neighboring militia out of their territory.  Belanov had come for Alina's older brother but the family had gotten wind of Belanov's impending visit and sent Gavrila away.  For Belanov, this wasn't acceptable, and he demanded that Gavrila return, threatening the entire family.

          A week later, when Belanov returned, Gavrila wasn't to be found and, in that moment, as Alina's father stood defiant on his doorstep against Belanov and his master, the enforcer pulled his pistol from his holster and fired off two rounds, one in the groin of Alina's father and the other into his stomach.  The man collapsed to the ground, cradling his agonizing wounds while Alina's mother screamed and Alina, hiding upstairs, tried to make herself even smaller inside of her closet.  Belanov bent down to the dying man and smiled, brandishing his pistol, "If you wish, I can take the pain away."  The man spat at Belanov, a gesture he didn't take too kindly and four shots later, Alina's father was bleeding from each limb but still alive, despite the shock.  "Let that be a lesson," he warned as he holstered his pistol.  "Gavrila better be here otherwise I'll take something more precious away," Belanov warned.  Alina stayed in the closet and her father died minutes later on the doorstep, having bled out from the six gunshot rounds, one of which nicked an artery, much to his fortune.  He'd never have received treatment in time and his death would have been agonizing thanks to the gut and groin wounds.

          Twenty-two hours ago, Belanov returned and, finding the house empty, set fire to it, burning everything Alina and her family ever owned.  Hiding with a neighbor, they kept in the shadows of a closet while Belanov's men went house-to-house, looking for them, shooting anyone who gave them lip, anyone who didn't offer some fealty until finally, Alina's mother emerged from the closet to present herself, to accept her fate.  But this wasn't enough for Belanov who found the old woman unsuitable.  Belanov ordered his men into the house and Alina was found with little effort.  Cowering in the closet, terrified beyond words, Alina remembered the round hands that yanked her out of the closet by her hair and dragged her out of the room.  Kicking and screaming, she put up as much of a fight as she could muster but against the two men easily three times her size each, she could do little and she found herself dragged outside and thrown onto the ground, Belanov looming over her.  "A worthy sacrifice for Gavrila's obstinance," Belanov bellowed as he stared at Alina and then up at her mother.  "We'll take good care of your daughter," he said, with malicious laughter just before one of his men yanked her head back and slit her throat.

          The soon-to-be corpse of Alina's mother crumbled to the ground, tears in her eyes as blood poured from her throat.  She tried to reach out, with what little strength she still had, but the soldier who'd murdered her simply stomped on her hand and there, on the cold pavement outside of their neighbor's house, their own house burning to cinders behind them, Alina's mother died, her eyes left open and her mouth agape in a final, silent scream of terror.  Crying, Alina lashed out at the men who then approached her, forcing them to step back out of her reach.  Laughing at her, they took some pleasure in seeing her fight as they attempted to move in and grab her.  One was able to come in behind her and grabbed her by the hair, lifting her off of the ground but she swung around and kicked him hard in the groin.

          The man let go as he retreated in pain, sending Alina off balance and back onto the ground.  Laughter filled the air and Belanov stepped forward, "Did I promise you some entertainment?"  Alina lunged at him but she didn't get too far as he drove his foot right into her stomach, taking all of the wind out of her.  She collapsed back to the ground with a cough and a gasp as she struggled to breathe, Belanov continuing to laugh at her.  "Get her in the jeep, let's go," he ordered as he walked away.  Two men approached and picked her up underneath her arms and dragged her to the back of a GAZ-67 military jeep where she gave some final fight before catching a rifle butt to the stomach.  Gasping for air, she was thrown into the back and sandwiched between the two soldiers, the same ones who'd yanked her out of the closet.  

          When Alina was a young child, her grandmother had frightened her with bedtime stories of werewolves, vampires, and other sprites that stole children away in the night.  She'd spent countless nights cowering in terror underneath her sheets, thinking that the wind was a vampire come to steal her away.  Her mother would comfort her and admonish her own mother for frightening the child but, as her grandmother often professed, it was simply the way it had to be done.  Alina prayed for those nightmares again.  She prayed for her youth, sitting in bed, cowering underneath the sheets, trembling at the creaking noises of the house.  She did so because, if Alina thought that the murder of her mother was the worst thing she'd ever witnessed, it would pale in comparison to what she saw when she was pulled out of the jeep.  

          Even in the darkness of the night, she knew where she'd been taken, a place so infamous amongst the locals that no one wanted to believe the tales they'd heard.  It was where all of the missing persons had gone, where Belanov and Poltanov had taken all of their victims, where Satan himself had made his throne and where there was only evil, pure evil.  Before the war, it had been a slaughterhouse for animals and ever since Poltanov's arrival, it was a slaughterhouse for people.  Whatever fate awaited Alina was unimaginable and it would not be quick, it would be slow and torturous because that was how these monsters found their pleasure.  

          She was yanked out of the jeep and once again dragged underneath her arms as her whole body went limp.  The men, laughing at their latest victim, ushered her into the slaughterhouse where the pungent and overpowering odor of death smacked Alina in the face so hard that she immediately vomited all of over not only herself but the men carrying her.  In disgust, they let go of her and she fell to the ground, landing right where she'd thrown up, the vomit soaking into her clothes.  She threw up again, now from the smell of vomit as much as the smell of the slaughterhouse.  Whatever had been in her stomach had come out and the men, cautious now, yanked her back up, dragging her back through the slaughterhouse where the echoes of screams and power tools echoed off of the concrete walls and tiled floors.  

          The men taunted her as they dragged her through the first floor, past rooms where other soldiers milled about.  A radio played music from what was once a breakroom for plant workers and which had become something of the same for the men that occupied the facility.  Then they took her to the basement, where the smell only got worse and where her eyes saw things she'd never imagined before.  The walls were stained with blood from executions or beatings of the feistier victims who'd been brought here and the floor was slick in spots.  It seemed that the men didn't bother to clean up anything from their victims, which contributed to the pungent stench that they'd gotten used to and which made their victims that much more horrified.  "This is your new home, for now," the men taunted her as they brought her into a room with mutilated bodies, some headless, most limbless torsos, all of them hanging from the ceiling on meat hooks.  Alina threw up again and tried to scramble away but the grip on her was simply too strong and the floor too slippery.  

          The men continued to taunt her, taking her out of this room and through a hallway.  "Soon you'll be there, with everyone else," they laughed, "maybe you'll be of more use."  The soldiers laughed as he dragged her through a cold and otherwise damp hallway and finally to a caged area where, unlocking the padlock with a key, they threw her inside with two other women, both older than her, both traumatized into paralysis.  "Make yourself comfortable," the men taunted as they locked the cage.  Alina scrambled into a corner, threw her knees up to her chest, and buried her face, crying as her mind processed all that she'd witnessed.  The smell made her nauseated and she continued to vomit until there was nothing left to come up, her clothes thoroughly soiled.  It would only get worse as the hours passed.

          The men had delivered the food a few hours later, knowing it wouldn't be eaten, not that it was of a quality worth eating anyway.  None of the three women moved and when one was dragged out kicking and screaming, the dish was knocked over and spilled onto the floor, mixing with everything else that had pooled onto the tiles.  Her only other cellmate, a blonde woman, appeared perfectly catatonic until she began to rock back and forth, whispering to herself, "I'm gonna die; I'm gonna die," over and over and over again.  This only drove Alina nuts but she was too weak to say anything and instead, she just curled up further into the corner, covering her ears and eyes so that she could block out everything possible.  The muffled voices of men from other parts of the slaughterhouse echoed into the basement, especially their laughter.  The men were joking with one another, playing cards, and otherwise filling their waking hours occupying their minds and hands while Poltanov worked his magic mutilating corpse after corpse, sending his message to the people of his domain that any resistance to him was futile and that they should accept his rule.  

          That was how time was passed.  Alina was too terrified to sleep and her constant state of alertness kept her awake, even though she was exhausted.  The woman in the cage with her had gone quiet after about an hour of muttering, which seemed like four eternities to Alina.  Neither Alina nor the woman acknowledged the other during their entire time in the cage.  Hours passed and the coppery stench of blood and the rotten decomposition of flesh wafted through the air every time there was a slight breeze or someone opened a door.  Alina couldn't bear the smell and found herself stricken not only with the paralysis of fear but a migraine as well, as if things couldn't get any worse for her.  She didn't necessarily appreciate it but the darkness of the cage went far to prevent exacerbation of the migraine.  As time wore on, she would feel the pangs of hunger and the parchment of thirst but this was only her body telling her what it needed, her brain, witnessing and processing all of the horrors of the slaughterhouse, would not allow for either.

          Hours had passed since her abduction.  Weary and weak with exhaustion, Alina still felt too terrified to sleep and continued to bury her face and her ears.  It had grown quiet for a few hours while the men slept but then morning came and there were more screams, more shrieks, and more power tools.  She surmised there were other captives somewhere else brought in fresh for the slaughter.  She didn't know how long she'd been there but the torture of waiting for her own gruesome death bore on as she huddled in the corner of the cage.  She'd never relax, never let her guard down, not so long as she was alive; yet, she wasn't thinking of escape, wasn't looking around to see how she could escape.  She hadn't resigned her fate yet but neither had she the mental wherewithal to look for freedom, so traumatized and demoralized was she that the fear had truly paralyzed her.

          Somewhere along the way, she began to drift in and out of consciousness as her body, overcome with exhaustion, briefly shut down but only for a few seconds or minutes before something jolted her back awake.  More hours passed and more until nineteen in all had passed and she remained in the cage with the other woman who, like her, hadn't moved.  Alina was drifting in and out of consciousness even more strongly now and she'd only just shut her eyes when she heard someone give the orders, "Go bring me another one!  From the basement!"  Despite the thick walls of the slaughterhouse, the voice wasn't as muffled as the rest of them, likely because it was Poltanov but she had no way of knowing.  There was a muffled reply and more laughter before she heard a door open and slam shut, echoing throughout the basement.  Heavy footsteps slowly approached until finally the form of a man appeared in the corridor, walking towards the cage.  

          "Who shall it be," he taunted from afar, coming closer to the cage.  He turned on a flashlight and shined it into the cage, looking at each of the two women.  "Young or old," he laughed, "I guess I'll find out," he unlocked the padlock and stepped inside, walking over first to the older woman who remained catatonic.  He shined the light down on her and gave her a slight nudge with his foot, "Well she's alive," he turned the light towards Alina and approached.  The light, hurting Alina's covered eyes, made her jump back a little though there was nowhere to go.  The man laughed, "A lively one I see," he drew closer, "we'll have to work on that won't we," he crouched down in front of Alina and reached down to pull her arms away.  Alina gagged at the stench of the man's breath, his teeth clearly rotting away in his mouth.  "What do we have here?"  He lowered his voice as he pulled away Alina's arms.  He shined the light back into her face and she quickly hid it.  "No, no, I want to see."  He reached down and grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her up so that her face came free and the light shone right on it.

          Almost instantly, the man recoiled back, letting go of Alina's hair in the process.  "f*ck," he muttered to himself, "f*ck," he said again.  He stood up and took a step back and began pacing, muttering over and over and over again to himself the word "f*ck" as he looked at the ground, his flashlight dancing along his path.  With a final "f*ck," he crouched back down in front of Alina, who recoiled back herself, and he pulled her arms back down, much more gently than before.  "Alina," he said, speaking her name, "Alina are you in there?"  He asked.

          Until now, Alina had been in her own shell, her mind protecting her from the horrors she had witnessed.  Hearing her name though had pulled her out of that and she looked at the eyes before her, at the face that had recognized her, at the mouth that had said her name.  "How do you know my name?"

          The man sighed, "Alina it's me, Anton, do you remember?"  Alina searched her mind for the name, trying to remember.  "Anton from school."  Her brain reached back into the past, through the barriers of the present, and there she remembered the shy boy who always sat near her but never talked to her, a boy who gave his name as Anton whenever the teacher called for attendance, a boy who she noticed but never really spoke much with other than a few words here and there.  

          "From school," she repeated.  "Anton from school."

          "Yes, Anton from school," he laughed and smiled, "do you remember me?"

          "I remember Anton from school," she whispered, her voice horse.  "Why am I here?"  He didn't want to answer her, knew that if he did she would hear something he could never bring himself to say.  "Why am I here?"  She asked again.

          "I can't tell you," he said, "but I'm going to help you," he stood up and turned off his flashlight.  Then he turned to the other woman and screamed towards her, "Get up, let's go!"  She was still catatonic and didn't move one millimeter.  "I said let's go!"  He gave her a kick and she fell over onto the floor, still catatonic.  "Fine!  You want to be that way," he grabbed her shirt collar and dragged her out of the cage, locking it behind him, and then dragged her away.  Alina was alone in the cage now and a new wave of fear and terror came over her as Anton dragged the woman away and out of sight.  Alina buried her ears to avoid the shrieking screams though they never came, not this time and an hour later, Anton reappeared.

          Moving rapidly and breathing heavily, he frantically unlocked the padlock and went into the cage, coming right over to Alina, "Hurry, you have to go," he said to her as he lifted her to her feet only, she was too weak to stand and collapsed back to the ground.  "Alina," he grabbed her face, "I'm saving you!  Stand up," he ordered her and her eyes connected with his and she was yanked back up to her feet, this time standing.  Weary, dizzy, and unstable, she stumbled towards the cage door, which Anton locked behind her.  

          "I can't go that way, not again," she pointed to where she'd come from, to the bodies.  

          "We're not going that way," he grabbed her hand and pulled her around the cage and around the corner into another hallway.  "You have to go fast," he said to her, "you have to go fast but you have to be quiet.  It's nighttime outside it's quiet so you can't make a sound."  He brought her through the hallway and into a large and empty room where he let go of her hand and bent down to the ground, pulling a massive, metal grate up from the floor.  "Quick, hurry, get in!"  He said.  Alina stumbled slowly towards him, "Hurry!"  He said in a loud, raspy whisper.  It was at least two meters down into the grate and he had her sit on the edge and held her arms as he lowered her down, holding the grate up with his back.  Once she was down, he lowered the grate over her and looked down through the bars, "Hurry, get out of here, go that way," he pointed behind him.  "Follow the pipes, they'll lead out of here and out of the perimeter.  Once you get out there stay low and move slowly, move quietly, get out, get away, get free."  He said down to her.

          She nodded and didn't know what else to say, not that she was able to muster up much to say and instead, she began to crawl the way he'd told her.  If she thought it was horrific smelling in the slaughterhouse, the pipe was even worse.  Stagnant, filthy water lay in the bottom of it, mixed with everything that ran off from the various rooms, which meant no shortage of blood and other bodily fluids from the many victims of Poltanov.  Already filthy, she crawled slowly through the pipe, stopping to gag many times.  Her way was mostly dark, intermittently lit by the light coming through the grates of the floor above her.  She'd frozen a few times as footsteps echoed above her and waited until the were clear before she continued on her way.  At some point, she found herself underneath Poltanov himself as the man, smoking a cigarette and dressed in his uniform with a plastic apron, paced around the room, muttering to himself.  She figured that the woman who'd been dragged out was in there but she couldn't see through the floor grates well enough to know for sure.  Her heart raced, fearing discovery, as she slowly crawled through the pipes.  When the power saw went on, she used the noise to move a little quicker, getting away from Poltanov as fast as she could.

          Another twenty meters later and she wasn't underneath the slaughterhouse anymore though she was still within its perimeter.  She kept crawling underneath the roadway, hearing the muffled chatter of men on the road and the ground above her.  She kept quiet, moving slowly, crawling through the pipe underneath the entire perimeter until, like Anton promised, she emerged into the night.  The temperature had dropped and she shivered the moment the air hit her but she knew where she was, knew that she could get away now, knew that the nightmare that seemed to be inevitable perhaps might end.  The pipe had brought her directly out of the perimeter and into a depression that led down into a small ravine and a stream.  Before she could get there though, she had to check to make sure no one was around and she peered up and over the depression and back to the perimeter, seeing some of the soldiers milling about but no one specifically looking her way.  Rather than wait for someone to come investigate, she turned around and started down the ravine, losing her balance.  She alternated between sliding and somersaulting down into the ravine where she landed roughly, shockwaves of pain shooting throughout her body.  

          "I'm alive," she told herself as she turned herself over and got to her feet.  She kept her profile low as she ran away, following the stream until it emerged several kilometers later to a bridge and a roadway.  She hid under the bridge as a vehicle approached and then popped back out when it had gone.  She didn't know the time but she knew it was late at night, which meant that any vehicles weren't going to be friendly to her since they would likely be Poltanov's forces.  Another few kilometers later, weary with exhaustion, she collapsed into some bushes and passed out for a few hours until she was awoken by the sound of a barking dog.  By then, it was light, and she opened her eyes and looked through the thick bushes towards the sound of the dog.

          "What is it boy?"  Someone called out and Alina knew she'd been discovered, knew that Poltanov and his men used dogs to hunt for people.  "What is there?"  The voice, a man's, called back out and the dog continued to bark.  She closed her eyes, pushed herself onto the ground, and willed it to swallow her whole so that she could hide.  Tears again came down her face as she punched the soft soil in frustration.  "Who's there?"  The voice called.  Alina stayed quiet.  "Listen, I know someone's there, my dog doesn't bark for nothing.  Who's there, I'm armed you know, I'm going to start shooting if you don't come out," the voice boomed.  Alina didn't budge.  "I'm not with the military.  Come out now," the man shot into the ground a meter or so from Alina and she screamed in fright.  "See!  I knew someone was there.  Come out now," the man ordered, "don't make me do that again."

          Resigned to her fate, Alina crawled out and emerged out of the bushes into the sunlight for the first time in days.  She knelt on the ground, a filthy mess, her hair, clothes, and skin covered in dirt and whatever she had crawled through to escape the slaughterhouse.  The smell alone made the man take a few steps back and the dog did much of the same, whining in the process.  "Please help me," Alina said weakly, her hands in the air.  "I escaped."

          "The slaughterhouse?"  The man asked, whispering.  Alina nodded her head.  "We've got to get you cleaned up, what's your name?"

          "Alina," she felt herself get slightly lightheaded.

          "Alina," the man shouldered his rifle and took a step forward, "my name is…"  Alina didn't hear the rest.  Her body, so overcome with exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, and trauma gave out on her and as she looked at the man and the ground, both rapidly grew further and further away from her as her body went limp and she crumpled to the ground like a ragdoll.  For her benefit, the ground was soft soil, which only cushioned her fall to avoid any further injury.


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Chapter II
The Undead


Tuesday, 19 October 1971 | 09:08 hrs [UTC-3]
Osinova, Adjinua, Poja | Osinova Army Base

The sound of approaching footsteps echoed in the otherwise quiet corridors of Building No. 14 at Osinova Army Base. ¬†Those footsteps were as common as they were distinct, military-issue shoes impacting the freshly polished, vinyl tile floors, the sound echoing off the floors and the cinderblock walls, amplified in the funnel that was a corridor with closed doors and no discernable background noise. ¬†Kapetan Goran Vasińá heard them approaching long before they reached the door and he looked up from the maps strewn out on the table before him as the doorknob was turned and the door opened, revealing the maker of the footsteps, Potpukovnik Goran NanuŇ°evski, who entered with a grave look on his face. ¬†"Kapetan, may I have a word?" ¬†Vasińá nodded and extinguished the cigarette resting in between the fingers of his right hand, leaving the two men who stood by him as he crossed the room to the visitor.

          "Sir, what can I do?"

          "I need you to come with me for a few hours, you'll find out when we're there."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Right," Vasińá nodded and turned around, "I'll be back in the morning to pick up where we've left off, we're going to do a walkthrough tomorrow at 10:00." ¬†The men nodded and he turned back to the visitor, "Lead the way sir." ¬†They left the room and entered the corridor where, without a word, NanuŇ°evski led them out of the building and to an awaiting vehicle. ¬†NanuŇ°evski was the intel boss and so whatever he needed must have been important. ¬†Vasińá didn't just follow him because he was outranked, he followed him because if NanuŇ°evski needed him for a few hours, there was a reason for it.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†NanuŇ°evski sat in the front and Vasińá in the rear while the driver took them from one building to another, which was clear on the opposite end of the base in a secluded area that was largely unused except for certain purposes. ¬†The moment Vasińá saw the destination, he knew the gravity of NanuŇ°evski's request. ¬†Upon arrival, NanuŇ°evski dismissed his driver and led the kapetan into the building where he was stopped just inside the threshold by an armed guard. ¬†Badges were checked and their names and time of entry were logged before they were allowed to proceed any further. ¬†Vasińá had seen security like this plenty of times so it wasn't surprising but he began to feel the energy of anticipation build within him as he was led into another room.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†That room was dark except for a two-way mirror, not unlike your typical interrogation room setup in a police station only the interrogation room was empty. ¬†NanuŇ°evski chose it for the privacy it afforded them, being soundproof and swept of any electronic listening devices on a daily basis. ¬†"All right Kapetan, the reason I've brought you here is because we have a change to your operation based on new intelligence that has been brought to us. ¬†This intelligence is compartmentalized for the time being but it is source-based and I think you're going to want to hear it before we move any further."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"All right, I'll bite," answered Vasińá, "who's the source? ¬†Defector?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Not quite," the door on the other side of the mirror opened and in stepped three people, including a young woman, none of whom Vasińá recognized. ¬†"Her name is Alina Donskoy and four days ago, she escaped from Kryboksarsk."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"You're serious," Vasińá was in disbelief, "how?"

          "Says a kid she went to school with is part of Poltanov's army and helped her escape.  She managed to get eight kilometers away before a farmer found her and managed to get her into our custody.  Once local intel got word of it, they promptly ran her up the chain of command.  She's in rough shape, not physically that is, they didn't harm her much, lighter even than you might expect but her mind's in really rough shape.  I was part of the initial debrief and it wasn't pleasant.  She was witness to some horrific shit, so you have to tread very lightly.  The two people with her haven't left her side since, she won't allow it.  Neither were cleared for this level of intelligence but she feels safety with them, so we got them temporary access.  They don't know anything about your operation so let's keep the details sparse."

          "Can we not trust them?"

          "They're not collaborators, insofar as we're aware but loose lips sink ships.  We have them sequestered and we're preventing outbound communications so we think the risk is low but the risk remains, as always.  Do exercise caution.  I want you to speak with her.  She's got quite an insight into what the target is."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"It's Christmas morning sir," Vasińá smiled as he turned around and opened the door. ¬†In the corridor, he stopped before the next door and gently knocked so as not to surprise anyone inside. ¬†He only entered when he heard someone say, "Come in," and even then, he came in slowly, opening the door part of the way, doing his best to be as disarming as possible. ¬†"Good morning," he stepped into the room, leaving the door partly open, "just checking, has everyone eaten, can I get anyone anything? ¬†I have a few questions for our guest, and I want to make sure we're all comfortable first." ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We're good," the two soldiers said, after looking at one another, "how about you Alina?" ¬†She nodded. ¬†Vasińá closed the door gently behind him. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"All right then allow me to introduce myself. ¬†My name is Kapetan Goran Vasińá and I have a few questions for you and now I'm sure you've answered these questions already but I do need to ask them. ¬†I hope this won't be too painful?"

          "No," Alina shook her head, "no I'll manage."

          "Very brave thank you, may I sit?"

          "Sure," Alina said, looking at the chair across the table.  "Can they sit too?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"I'm afraid not," Vasińá took the seat, "I need them to be vigilant and alert. ¬†We're safe here but there's no harm in being vigilant and alert. ¬†Gentlemen, if you don't mind waiting by the door? ¬†Trust me, this may look like an interrogation but it is not. ¬†We use these rooms because they afford privacy. ¬†No one on the other side of that door can hear or see into this room."

          "What about the window?"  She asked, pointing with her thumb behind her.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Well, that's a horse of a different color, there is indeed someone in there who can see and hear what we're saying but he is something you've already spoke with, do you recall Potpukovnik NanuŇ°evski?" ¬†She nodded her head, "Same first name of course," Vasińá smiled, "part of the reason we all use our last names. ¬†It's less confusing that way."

          "And what happens if two people have the same last night?"

          "Well then it gets fun," he laughed, doing his best to keep the atmosphere light.  "So, I hear you were in Kryboksarsk.  I'd like to talk to you about it."  Immediately he saw that her body tense and he knew her heart was racing at the mere mention of the place.  "I know this is going to be very difficult, so we'll work at your pace.  If anything gets too difficult, just say so and we'll stop.  Is that fair?"  She nodded.  "Do you know how long you were there?"

          "Maybe a day."

          "A day," he repeated, "a day too long.  You were very brave and I couldn't be happier to have you with us here.  Now, if I may pry a little further, remember if it's too much just stop me.  We okay?"

          "We're okay," her voice was a little distance, as if her mind were putting up blocks as best as it could on that very experience.

          "How did you escape?"

          "Tunnels," she said, her voice low.  Tears began to fill her eyes.  "I escaped through the tunnels."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Okay, hey can we get some tissues?" ¬†Vasińá asked. ¬†"I should have brought some I'm sorry." ¬†They sat in silence for a few moments before a knock at the door was answered and a hand reached in with the box. ¬†It was put on the table and Alina grabbed for it right away and put it up to her face. ¬†"All right, that must have been a very traumatic experience for you. ¬†It takes a very strong person to go through something like that you are a very strong person indeed. ¬†Actually, if I may, would it be okay if these two gentlemen waited outside?" ¬†She tensed up again and neither of them said a thing, both outranked by Vasińá and knowing their place. ¬†"They would just be right outside that door, which I would not lock, in fact if you would close the door so you know it yourself and they could enter if there were any issues." ¬†She didn't answer.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We'll be right outside," one of the men said, "this is a safe place Alina." ¬†They had taken their role as caretaker very seriously and were doing their best to see to it that would be comfortable with Vasińá's request.

          "Okay," she said.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"I was serious about the door, please I want you to be as comfortable as possible." ¬†The men nodded and she stood up, walking over to the door and shutting it herself. ¬†When she sat back down, Vasińá smiled at her, "Comfortable?" ¬†She nodded her head. ¬†"All right, the real reason I asked for privacy is because, well while I've told you my name and rank, I have not told you who I represent and I would like to do so but this is not widely known information and as much as we have put the utmost trust in the men outside of that door, sometimes we must keep secrets even from ourselves. ¬†Do you understand?"

          "I do," she answered, "you're not here just to ask me questions, are you?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasińá shook his head, "You are quite astute. ¬†No, I need very detailed information for you. ¬†Have you ever heard of the Pukovnija za Posebne Operacije Vojske or PPOV?" ¬†She hadn't, "It is exactly as the name says, a special operations unit within the army. ¬†Why is this significant? ¬†For the past several months, I have been leading a planning group on a potential assault on that very place where you were held with the sole purpose of dismantling Poltanov's army."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†At this, she perked up and Vasińá saw a fire spark behind her eyes. ¬†"Someone's going to go after that monster?"

          "Yes."

          "When?"

          "Winter, maybe spring."

          "Why so long?"  The spark of fire was replaced with an eruption of anger.  "Do you know what he does to my people every day?"

          "I do not from your perspective but operations of this scope and nature require a lot of planning, a lot of intelligence, rehearsals, and waiting.  In the military there is nothing but waiting."

          "Why?  Why don't you act now?  You invaded our land but you won't stop the monster?"

          "I'm afraid that's a decision made above me.  No operation happens in as short a time as people think.  For us to be successful in capturing or killing Poltanov and dismantling his army and I mean truly dismantling them so that no one survives to take up the fight, we must be thorough, very thorough."

          "You'll get them all?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We want them all," Vasińá said, no smile this time, just the stern look of a military man, "make no mistake, Poltanov is friend to no one but we can never truly know if someone won't help them, someone who we didn't expect."

          "No one would help him," her voice took on a hint of derision, the same feeling as everyone in the wurld had when discussing Poltanov.

          "Agan, we must be thorough, truly thorough to be successful.  There can be no mistakes and I can assure you that mistakes happen when something is rushed.  We want to end his rein of terror.  This is not about punishment to the people or a lack of empathy.  You're the only person to escape and for that reason I must know everything that you saw, every twist and turn, every detail no matter how nightmarish, I need to know so that when we go in for them, he cannot escape or hide anywhere."

          Alina thought a moment, looking across the table at a symbol of both her savior and her oppressor.  It was hardly an easy choice, despite all that she'd gone through but Alina wasn't politically motivated, she had been too young for the political rhetoric and rallies of the 1960s.  She knew of people who'd gone to fight the government but that was as close as she got.  Her war wasn't really with the government; it was with Poltanov and Belanov.  "Promise me something Kapetan."

          "Goran," he said, "and yes what is it?"

          "You will see to it that Belanov and Poltanov are not captured.  I don't want them to face trial.  I want them to die."

          "Alina," he reached across the table, offering his hand, "when I say we are going to 'capture' them, I do so for political reasons.   If any of these men put Belanov or Poltanov in their sights, they will kill them."

          She pondered the thought and finally put her hand in his, it was trembling and she could feel her body wracked with anxiety at the mere thought of reliving everything.  "I'll tell you whatever you want to know."

          "I want to know about the tunnels…"

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Thursday, 21 October 1971 | 14:45 hrs [UTC-3]
Osinova, Adjinua, Poja | Osinova Army Base

Alina passed through the door as Vasińá held it open for her. ¬†The room itself was full of military men, each one wearing civilian clothes. ¬†Her two watchmen had been relieved of their duties but sequestered so as to not go back to their units and speak of anything that they'd seen. ¬†It was a mini-vacation for them and they understood precisely why they were taking it, more than committed to the operational security of the PPOV's upcoming assault. ¬†Alina was held in the dark though, still believing that the raid was months rather than days away. ¬†This afternoon, she was joining many of the would-be assaulters in a walkthrough of the slaughterhouse that had been her temporary prison. ¬†An exact, to-scale replica had been built using plans and they wanted her to walk them through each part of it. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The assault force was going to be significant in size and in this room were the squad leaders for each of the nine squads along with their designated backups. ¬†Some of the higher echelon officers involved in planning were also present so that the room was well packed, especially considering that the to-scale model took up a significant amount of space. ¬†"Gentlemen," Vasińá said as he shut the door behind him, "please meet Alina. ¬†She's going to give us a walkthrough on the interior of the target. ¬†Let's please remember that she is walking us through it because she was there." ¬†Everyone in the room knew what it meant even if they hadn't ever seen or heard of her before.

          "You guys built this?"  She looked at the model.

          "Yes, we did, it's accurate as far as the plans go but it may not be accurate as of today.  That's where we need your help."  She stared at it.  "You can take your time."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"No," she was resolved to this, had been ever since she took his hand in the interrogation room. ¬†"Let's go. ¬†What do you want to know?" ¬†That had become her line, perhaps her way of shocking her mind into submission, to put aside the bad memories and focus on the task at hand. ¬†Everyone had coping mechanisms for what they saw in battle, including each of the men in the room for each of them had seen combat. ¬†No one on this mission hadn't seen combat, which had been one of Vasińá's requirements. ¬†

          "Walk me through what you remember.  When they brought you in first."

          She took a breath, "They parked here," she pointed to a spot just outside of the slaughterhouse building.  On cue, someone reached in and placed a piece of paper with the number one before tacking it down.  Alina looked at him and he gave an expressionless look in return.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We want to make sure we get everything right the first time this way you only have to do this once," Vasińá offered, noticing the exchange. ¬†

          "Right, okay so we walked into here, the main doors," another number and pin followed, "then into the…"  She stopped.  "Should we just record what I say?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We are," Vasińá laughed and he pointed to a microphone sitting on the table that she hadn't seen, "I probably should have warned you."

          "No it's fine," she took another breath, truly believing this was the last time she'd have to relive the nightmare, unaware that it would haunt her dreams each and every night for the rest of her life.  She believed, falsely, that talking it through would excise it from her body.  Psychologists would grapple with that for years to come.  "Inside we went to these stairs.  I just remember there was so much blood, like they killed people on these steps.  They were slick."  Another number and another pin, this was an important detail, the men would have to be careful where they stepped.  "And then through here," and here she froze, froze for a solid minute.

          "What was there?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Bodies," she whispered, her face ashen, all of the color gone from her lips and her skin. ¬†"Bodies hanging from meat hooks," her voice was a whisper and her eyes wide, staring into the blankness ahead. ¬†The man went to put a pin and Vasińá held up his hand, not wanting to spook her, clearly away that she wasn't in the room with them anymore, she was in the room. ¬†"He walked me past them, god the smell, I threw up, I threw up because the smell, it was, blood everywhere. ¬†They were just hanging there. ¬†Bodies from the ceiling. ¬†He made me go through there." ¬†She was trembling, shaking with fear as she relived what she never wanted to relive again. ¬†"I tried to get away but I couldn't. ¬†They were too strong. ¬†The floor was too slippery. ¬†I almost fell down into it but they held me up. ¬†They didn't care. ¬†They didn't care at all they teased me, taunted me." ¬†Her fists balled up, "f*cking animals." ¬†Vasińá and everyone watched silently, the microphone picking up her words, even at a whisper. ¬†They would be amplified later by post processing to make them louder for the replay but they were clear.¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"What happened after the room?" ¬†Vasińá asked. ¬†Alina didn't answer. ¬†"Alina?" ¬†He said her name, not loudly, just loud enough for her to hear it and she snapped back with a bit of a startled jump. ¬†"It's okay." ¬†Her chest was heaving, her face covered in a cold, clammy sweat. ¬†

          "I don't feel so good," she said as she turned around and collapsed to the ground, her legs weak.  A medic in the room stepped forward and approached her, bending down next to her, making sure she was all right, which she was, insofar as his nod told everyone.  They took a break and during that time, the number and pin was placed.  When they came back, they picked up where they left off, leaving the room with the bodies.  She talked about the cage, about the other women, about the fear, about the smell, about how she was so sick the entire time, how she hid in the corner.  When they finally got to Anton, she only said the smallest of details.  "I knew him from school.  I didn't know he joined them."

          "But he helped you?"

          "Yes, he showed me the tunnels."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Could he be someone to help us?" ¬†Vasińá wouldn't necessarily trust this individual but he could perhaps use him for information, if they were able to see him during the assault.

          To this, Alina shook her head, "I know he was there to get me but he took her instead.  If he was in there he's one of the monsters, whether he helped me or not."  She was cold in her reply.  She wanted Poltanov's army completely destroyed down to the last man.  She didn't care about Anton's fate, having already decreed that a single good act got not save him from the horrible acts he likely committed as a member of Poltanov's army.  This was because, as she replayed it in her head, she knew Anton's voice was one of those who laughed and joked about the fates of those who were in the cage.  No amount of good acts could redeem him.  "Do not trust a one of them.  They're all monsters."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"That makes it easy for us," Vasińá answered. ¬†"Show us where the tunnels were." ¬†She pointed to them, "and they went out, do you remember where you came out?"

          "No, maybe over here," she pointed to a place in the distance, "it was really dark.  There was water though."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Water," Vasińá said, "yes we know where that is," he pulled a reconnaissance photo out and put it down on the table. ¬†"That's around here," he said, pointing to the likely area of the pipes. ¬†The resolution wasn't high enough for it but it was still good enough to get them what they needed. ¬†In the week before Alina's capture, a reconnaissance mission had been launched and a single ZuB-7I Fishbed-H, equipped with photo reconnaissance pod, had overflown the target with just one pass so as not to arouse any suspicions. ¬†It had come in low and fast, nearly at the limit for the photo reconnaissance hardware, much too quick for anyone to get a good look at it. ¬†If the overflight had aroused any suspicions, none had been noticed by subsequent reconnaissance done by higher altitude flights by ZuB-6 Fitters, which were a common enough sight at medium altitude over Chernarus that no one would think otherwise. ¬†There had even been a plan to fit a transport plane with higher resolution cameras to get detailed imagery of the target but the plan had been scrubbed because it would take too long to do so and they would miss the operational window.

          After a few questions and some more breaks, the men had got what they needed.  Over the next few days, they would walk through it again and again and again.  In the meantime, another team was working on updating a course nearby that mimicked the layout so that they could run full-scale drills and not simply walk through it on the scaled model.  This was truly an important measure of the PPOV's successes, practice because practice made perfect and practice prevented piss poor performance.


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Chapter III
Monsters
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Monday, 25 October 1971 | 02:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Zhodyebsk Region, Chernarus | Village of Kryboksarsk

Belanov cleared his throat and suddenly, the commotion and chatter amongst the four dozen men halted to a silence.  Each and every one of them shuffled to his feet and stood ramrod straight as the man entered the dimly lit room.  "Squad leaders, is anyone missing?"  Belanov's voice echoed off of the walls in the cafeteria and one-by-one, each of the four squad leaders answered that all were present and accounted for amongst their subordinates.  Belanov received the news positively, as if the man could be positive about anything, and took his place in the center of the room.  "Attention!"  He yelled and everyone stood just a little bit straighter as the doorway suddenly received a massive, gargantuan figure in it.  The light coming in from the hallway suddenly went dark, only visible around the edges of the figure as if he were the moon in a solar eclipse.  

          The figure stepped into the room and the light returned but only briefly as the door slammed shut behind him, leaving only a sliver of light from the bottom of the door where it failed to connect to the ground.  The figure took his place next to Belanov, dwarfing the otherwise tall and sizeable man.  "Be seated!"  The voice boomed on a bass frequency, boomed as if Belanov's yells had been nothing but a loud whisper.  The men sat down at the order and not a single piece of chatter rang out amongst them.  The figure at the center of the room was only slightly visible in the dim lighting but everyone knew precisely who he was, knew that this figure, who could have easily been a beast from ancient mythology, was none other than their leader, Viktor Poltanov. 

          Poltanov's imposing stature was nothing to discount.  The man stood just shy of 200 centimeters and he weighed 125 kilograms.  If that wasn't enough, he could bench press double his weight and the muscle mass alone only added to the volume he occupied in any given space.  If he were a figure in mythology, he'd be described as a half-giant, capable of immense feats of strength and vicious, merciless prowess on the battlefield.  If Beowulf had encountered Poltanov, the story would have ended there, with the latter ripped out the former's arms and using them as clubs for the rest of the battle.  The man wouldn't have stood a chance against Poltanov and that wasn't just because of his strength but also because of his disposition.  Poltanov was violent, he was vicious, he was merciless, he was a sadist, and at the most carnal, basic level, he was a monster.

          To defy Poltanov brought on punishment of such unexpected creativity that no one dared step out of line more than once, if they even did once, knowing full well the stories of those who had defied Poltanov's orders.  Those stories, part embellishment, part true, were enough to frighten even the most stonehearted killers amongst them.  Then there was the added complication of Poltanov's otherwise unpredictable nature.  A psychologist might have diagnosed him with bipolar disorder but Poltanov seemed to have only one mood and variations of that specific mood, usually determined by where he was at that moment in time.  He could lash out at anyone, for anything and always catch someone off-guard.  He was often worse during a bout of insomnia, of which he had many.  He was irritable in the calmest of moments and a raging tornado in the worst, destroying everything in his path.  Why men followed him into battle had little to do with his temperament and everything to do with his reputation on the battlefield.  

          Poltanov, unlike many militia leaders who carried sidearms or the occasional assault rifle, wielded an RPK light machine gun that he often fired one-handed so that his other arm could be free to issue orders.  He led from the front, never the rear, and never ordered his men to do something he hadn't or wouldn't do.  He led many charges alongside his men and was known to drag his wounded out of harm's way, firing his RPK for suppressive fire in the process.  Men who fought alongside of him told of his impressive marksmanship capabilities with the RPK and his ease for lugging not only the weapon around but all of the gear that a squad themselves would carry.  He wore grenades like a necklace, carried a dozen drums of ammunition, and seemed to have a fetish for explosive charges, of which he would always have at least two in his pack.  Poltanov seemed to have an unlimited supply of Semtex and was liberal with its distribution.

          When he spoke, his voice was deep, sometimes a growl that could startle those unaware of his presence.  When he spoke in the cafeteria, his voice practically shook the room.  "We're going for a special target this morning," he spoke as he looked at the clock.  It was just after 02:00 and the darkness outside was thorough, the moon only in it's first quarter phase but hidden behind a thick layer of storm clouds overhead that pelted Chernarus with a steady rain.  "We attack just before dawn, at 07:00, which will give us thirty-three minutes before the sun rises."  This was always when they attacked but Poltanov always repeated it, drilling into his men the idea that no matter how routine something was, the details mattered, always.  "Our target is a warehouse fifteen klicks from here, we leave in forty-five minutes, plenty of time to reach it before twilight ends.

          "During the assault, we will attack Second Squad, Third Squad, First Squad, with Fourth Squad covering our rear.  Second Squad will focus on any guard towers, breaching the perimeter wall, and neutralizing patrolling guards.  Third Squad will work inside the perimeter.  First Squad is charged with taking out the warehouse itself, gaining entry and planting satchel charges.  I will lead First Squad and Belanov will lead Second Squad.  Thirty-three minutes is our window from the moment the first shots are fired.  Belanov will fire that shot, is that understood?"

          A resounding yes filled the room, pleasing the two men at the head of the room.  Poltanov had decided on this rather conventional attack sequence but only because that was how the rotation was favoring this morning's assault.  He rotated the squads so that everyone learned every part of warfare, whether it was holding rear security or assaulting or providing initial contact.  He typically went with whatever squad was doing the mission assault while Belanov typically covered the opening assault and this morning would be no different.  Poltanov trusted his second-in-command to fire the first shot at the most opportune time and from there everything would fall into place.  The guard towers - if there were any - would fall in rapid sequence.  Anyone guarding a gate would be dropped before they could his an alarm or radio for help.  A satchel charge would reduce a piece of any wall to rubble big enough for an entire squad to pour in at high speed.  Then it would be a coordinated attack in four-man teams, each team leapfrogging over the other, moving at a steady pace, firing, covering, firing, and covering.  Poltanov drilled his men not unlike how the PPOV drilled themselves, which was what made them such an effective fighting force.

          "Expected resistance?"  Poltanov asked, rhetorically, "Potentially up to fifty hostiles, likely snipers and machine gun emplacements.  They're in 'bad country' so they'll have beefed up security.  Those with the RPGs, focus on the emplacements, guard shacks, towers, machine gun nests.  When all targets are neutralized, go to your rifle.  Volume of fire will keep the enemy suppressed so they can be flanked.  We're in, and we're out, any questions?"  The room was silent.  "Belanov, anything to add?"

          "Remember your training, remember the man next to you, if he's hit, you pull him to safety.  We don't leave anyone behind, live or dead.  Remember it."  Belanov added the same thing he added each and every time, as if he'd memorized the line and needed to speak it for a mission to be real.  It was true, Poltanov's men didn't leave anyone behind, living or dead.  They fought hard and made sure no one was left to the enemy.  Those who looked to be imminently captured would be sacrificed, usually by an RPG, and the body retrieved.  It was something everyone knew and everyone accepted.  No one would be captured, no bodies would be left behind, and everyone would come back "home."  It was part of the reason Poltanov's fighters fought so fiercely by the man's side, amongst many other reasons beyond his battlefield exploits.

          On cue, at 02:45, in the midst of a now driving rain, Poltanov, Belanov, and forty-eight men set out from the slaughterhouse on foot and began to walk on a southerly course.  They would weave through the forested areas, using the night and the weather as cover.  There would be no breaks on the march.  In the reduced visibility, they kept a tighter column but still looked for booby traps or landmines as best as they could.  Their eyes, accustomed to the dark, had little trouble discerning the small details that they needed to see, thanks to many hours of experience doing this very thing.  There was something else about them, they moved very quietly, despite being burdened down with weaponry and equipment.  Each and every man was responsible for his personal noise profile and that meant many hours checking and mounting one's gear to minimize sound while traveling.  For Poltanov's men, combat was the byproduct of many hours of training, not just in marksmanship skills but also gear loading, familiarity, and all of the other non-shooting aspects that went along with being a soldier.  Poltanov hand picked the men who would serve under him, which was seen as a badge of honor amongst those who served with him but a curse by those who didn't for there was no way out, no escape route.  Once you were in Poltanov's army that was it, you were in for life, however long or short that might be.


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Monday, 25 October 1971 | 07:35 hrs [UTC-3]
Zhodyebsk Region, Chernarus | Outskirts of Dolgoznogorsk

Gunfire continued to echo over the battlefield as Poltanov and his army retreated but it was hardly the cacophony of dozens of rifles firing at once but rather a few shots here and there, a trio of shots towards a concealed enemy, a single shot towards a retreating militiaman, a burst of machine gun fire from Poltanov's RPK against someone foolish enough to stick his head up from where he was hiding, an errant sniper shot that missed it's mark.  The assault had been rapid and violent.  Belanov had opened it up with a single shot that sliced through the head of a gate guardsman, which was followed by a crescendo of gunfire that culminated only seconds later when the first RPG rounds slammed into various structures around the warehouse perimeter, including the gate shack where a single frantically tried to radio for help.  He didn't get more than half a word out before the RPG slammed into the side of the shack and flattened it, crushing him in the process.

          By the time Poltanov and First Squad engaged targets inside of the perimeter, over half of the defending force was gone, bodies strewn out all around the base.  Those who happened to be wounded but still alive were specifically targeted so that they would not survive.  Poltanov himself led the charge on the warehouse and yanked back the sliding door as men covered him.  Stun grenades went in as the door was opening and men firing inside at anyone caught in the open.  Then in went fragmentation and concussion grenades before the thirteen men stormed inside, firing at anyone who happened to be in there, sweeping through the warehouse so quickly that no one inside had time to contemplate a good defensive strategy.  Outside, the gunfire continued as Third Squad cleared inside the perimeter as Second Squad worked on anyone who happened to be in their line of sight, admittedly not many but one flanking group was cut down as they turned the corner and converged on the main gate, a roving patrol perhaps that had been missed.

          Poltanov and his men planted no less than fifteen satchel charges, each one containing five, one-kilogram bricks of Semtex, more than enough to turn the warehouse to cinders, which was the effect Poltanov wanted.  He wanted the building, and its contents, so thoroughly obliterated that the aftermath would look as if it had been struck by a heavy, aerial bomb.  Placed on timers, the satchel charges would detonate twenty minutes after they were placed and as Poltanov's forces retreated, he looked at his watch to see that only three minutes remained.  They'd gotten bogged down on the retreat by some well-covered soldiers who had good defensive positions.  RPGs had been fired to little effect and eventually, they threw a quartet of smoke grenades around the area to cover their retreat, opting to let the charges do their job and not try to eliminate each and every one at the base.

          Moving quickly, the squads themselves regrouped about eight hundred meters from the target, which was where casualties were counted.  There were two KIAs, both bodies recovered, and a dozen injuries, two serious enough that medics were working on them but the rest ambulatory enough that they would not need medical attention until they reached the slaughterhouse.  Holding a defensive perimeter, Poltanov and his men kept their watch around the entire area, with Belanov covering their rear so that Poltanov could watch his handiwork.  With his RPK at low ready, he watched as the sun, rising to his left, cast the base in an otherwise harsh shadow.  The errant shot still rang out but the rounds came nowhere near he or his men.  The smoke, having dissipated already, had shielded those in the base from seeing where they'd gone and now the men were taking pot shots at wherever they remembered Poltanov's forces to be last, wasting their ammunition.  Those shots ceased when the satchel charges, seventy-five kilograms worth of Semtex, detonated within milliseconds of one another.

          The warehouse, and everything inside of it, suddenly was engulfed by a massive, rolling fireball that climbed into the sky.  Pieces of the warehouse that weren't destroyed by the blast were flung in each and every direction at high speed, potentially killing some of the defenders who remained, if the shockwave hadn't.  "A thing of beauty," Poltanov commented as the fireball rolled upwards, losing its red and orange color as it dissipated.  Thick, caustic, toxic, black smoke would replace it, rising up in the sky where it was carried away by the light winds that blew above ground level.  Poltanov's comment caused each and every man to turn to see the results of their raid, all of them taking some satisfaction in seeing the rolling flames and smoke reaching into the sky.  One-by-one, the squads dispersed, with Poltanov going with the last one to ensure no one was left behind, which also gave the medics more time to work on the more seriously injured.  They would be carried out on makeshift stretchers, attended to during the entire retreat.  One would die along the way, the result of an artery hit; the other would be paralyzed for life.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†News of Poltanov's raid would circle through the military ranks of the Pojańćki Armed Forces within hours, including just how effective it had been. ¬†Amongst the Chernarussian guerilla groups, news would take a little longer but by the end of the day, everyone would know that a major warehouse target had been neutralized, all thanks to Poltanov's army of monsters. ¬†The reaction from the PAF was predictable but from the guerilla groups it would be muted. ¬†Poltanov had no friends and even his contributions wouldn't be cheered on, if just because everyone knew precisely what it meant, that he would grow more powerful, get more recruits, and further hamper both sides. ¬†The insurgent armies feared a post-war Poltanov government more than they feared defeat at the PAF's hands.


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Chapter IV
Ghosts


Thursday, 28 October 1971 | 16:30 hrs [UTC-3]
GosŇĺevci, Adjinua, Poja | GosŇĺevci Air Base

Kapetan Goran Vasińá watched as his men queued up the ramp of the transport plane, each one trying to get on and find seat in what promised to be a crowded and otherwise uncomfortable flight. ¬†The only saving grace was that it would only be about an hour's flight. ¬†Sixty-three men would have to board before Vasińá stepped up the ramp, the last man on and the first man off when they reached their destination. ¬†Vasińá had been a paratrooper before joining the PPOV and that had been their motto: "last man on, first man off." ¬†He'd carried it with him since but they weren't riding into battle in the back of a cargo plane. ¬†Instead, they were flying to a staging point and so it was significantly less dramatic than jumping into the sky under a canopy amidst a hail of tracer fire and angry separatists trying to kill you at your most vulnerable.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†They were in the second aircraft to be going to PoŇĺarevo Air Base, which was a reserve field on near the Liari-Chernarussian border. ¬†It had been used in the initial invasion only to provide air cavalry troops with a staging location and not since. ¬†It was ill-suited for sustained fighter operations because it was a reserve field and thus not stocked or staffed for full-time use. ¬†This was why it was a perfect place for the PPOV to launch their assault against Poltanov. ¬†Chernarussian separatists were known to have spies watching the fighter and sometimes the transport bases throughout the country, alerting their comrades whenever aircraft took off, with what ordnance, and in which direction they were headed. ¬†Pojańćki Air Force planners had gotten wind of this and, rather than roll up the spies, they opted to feed them tons of disinformation. ¬†They'd have aircraft take off from one base and fly to another, other times go up and perform maneuvers only to come back down simulating an emergency, and so on and so forth. ¬†In a brilliant move, ahead of a planned strike on a separatists weapons cache, they jerry-rigged torpedoes onto a Fitter and had it take off and fly towards the Kezanoi Sea along with multiple other aircraft, likely giving the separatists spies a very confusing conversation.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†For that reason, the PPOV men were loading into their aircraft inside of a hangar, hidden from the mindful eyes of any potential spies. ¬†Another Ba-2 Cub-A had taken off an hour earlier, carrying all of their gear so that it could land and be offloaded in time for their arrival. ¬†They would inventory and check everything upon landing and then spend the rest of the evening and the night adjusting to a new schedule. ¬†They aimed to hit the slaughterhouse at night, which meant that they had to switch their waking hours, a quick process that took about seventy-two hours to weed out any physiological detriments such as sluggishness, insomnia, or restlessness, amongst others. ¬†Counting the men, Vasińá could see the last of them in the queue and knew he would be stepping on soon but not before the man next to him turned and held out his hand. ¬†"Kapetan," he said as Vasińá took hold, "Godspeed. ¬†May you come back with every man you left with."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Thank you sir, that's all we ask for ourselves." ¬†There would be no salute, even though the man standing next to him held the five-star rank of marŇ°al and there was only one man in the Pojańćki Army who held than rank, the head of the entire service, LjubiŇ°a Vasiljevińá. ¬†MarŇ°al Vasiljevińá rarely traveling alone but, in the interest of both secrecy and security, he'd engineered it so that his typical entourage had visited a base in Dosnima and he had slipped out and headed to GosŇĺevci solely to shake the hand of the man who was going to bring down Poltanov. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"We'll see you when you get back Kapetan." ¬†Vasiljevińá turned on his heels and left, as comfortable in the uniform of a sergeant as he was in that of a marŇ°al. ¬†Before the aircraft ever took off, he was on his way out of the base's gate, saluting as if he were a sergeant and not the head of the entire army. ¬†He had to sell the part more so than anyone else lest the scuttlebutt rumors begin. ¬†To head those off, Vasińá and his men had arrived in intermodal containers, just as if they were simple cargo being loaded into an aircraft, which was as suspicious as a bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm. ¬† Minutes later, he stepped into the cargo hold of the aircraft and the crew chief shut the ramp behind him. ¬†Only then were the doors open from the outside so that even the engineers and flight mechanics had no idea what the payload of the Cub was. ¬†No detail, no matter how small, was being overlooked here. ¬†In fact, no one at PoŇĺarevo knew it yet but within the next hour, the base would undergo a mandatory lockdown drill, something that had been put onto the schedule two days earlier. ¬†The departure of the Cub would simply be "good timing" and nothing more. ¬†The lockdown drill, which would last for twelve hours would then be followed up by a series of other drills that ultimately prevented the Cubs from returning, again nothing too strange given the nature of these drills.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†On board the plane, Vasińá stood in the middle of everyone as the crew chief walked past to take his seat near the cockpit. ¬†"All right men, I'm not sure if you noticed but that was a special sendoff we received. ¬†Let's make him proud. ¬†We're leaving today with sixty-four. ¬†When we return, I want sixty-four. ¬†Is that understood?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The response drowned out the starting of the first engine and Vasińá nodded, having nothing more to say. ¬†He took his seat, a special one that had been reserved so that he wouldn't be uncomfortable for the flight. ¬†Though these men largely saw everyone as equal, Vasińá was slightly "more equal," if just because he was leading the entire operation. ¬†Lumbering down the runway a few minutes later, amidst the roar of four turboprop engines, Vasińá leaned his head against the vibrating fuselage and closed his eyes. ¬†In his head, he had the name of each and every man on the operation, including the helicopter pilots and crewmen who were at another staging area not far from the air base. ¬†They would take off from there, drop into PoŇĺarevo, refuel, get the PPOV soldiers, and head into Chernarus for the insertion. ¬†They would return to PoŇĺarevo and wait for the appropriate time for extraction. ¬†Two other An-12s would be arriving ahead of them with fuel bladders so that the helicopters could refuel at PoŇĺarevo. ¬†A complex operation that had many parts, it was all in play now, those events entering their final sequencing before H-Hour.


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Saturday, 30 October 1971 | 19:00 hrs [UTC-3]
PoŇĺarevo, Liaria, Poja | PoŇĺarevo Air Base

Vasińá looked up into the darkness of the sky, counting the many stars high overhead. ¬†PoŇĺarevo Air Base was bathed in darkness with only a few lights on where and only where it was absolutely necessary. ¬†He and his men were lined up on the tarmac in five groups, which they called chalks. ¬†Each chalk had been given a very specific assignment in the mission. ¬†Vasińá would lead chalk one and the entire mission, using the callsign VAMPIRE. ¬†His chalk consisted of fourteen men who would all get into the lead helicopter. ¬†Their job was to conduct the main assault on the slaughterhouse and kill Poltanov, freeing any potential captives in the process. ¬†Behind them would come chalks two and three, callsign WEREWOLF, another twenty-eight men whose job it was to secure Poltanov's base and prevent reinforcements from getting into the slaughterhouse during the assault. ¬†The final two chalks, four and five, were callsign ZOMBIE and consisted of twenty-two men who would be rear security, preventing reinforcements from outside of the base from arriving and threatening the other two groups.

          The sixty-four assaulters for the operation were heavily laden with gear but it was all their own gear and thus no man was taking anything he couldn't carry, especially considering they expected an eight-kilometer hike to the target, through rough terrain, maximizing noise discipline.  Their insertion point had been reconnoitered in secrecy by an advance team from the PPOV, who were unaware of the mission but sent on a scouting mission for potential "future missions."  What they returned about the insertion point was that it was fairly safe, adequate for landing the force size necessary, and it offered good cover.  Its location was remote and except on the off chance of an actual separatist unit moving through the area, no one would be around to hear the helicopters.  This was Plan B.  Plan A had been to assault the target directly but Poltanov's army was too well-armed and casualties would be too high.  They expected to lose one helicopter during insertion and likely a second on departure.  That was simply too much attrition for this operation and so an overland patrol had been set up instead but that meant pushing the men far from the target to maintain the element of surprise.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasińá and his men would need to maintain a good pace and there would be no rest breaks. ¬†Their assault would take place at 04:00 on the dot, maximizing darkness before first light and taking advantage of the fact that even Poltanov's soldiers needed to sleep. ¬†In fact, generally speaking, from 02:00 to 06:00, most armies slept with only minimal watch patrols. ¬†Poltanov would have a more sizeable watch patrol going at that time but at least two-thirds to three-quarters of his army would be asleep. ¬†For Vasińá, those were the kinds of odds he needed to make sure the mission was a success. ¬†He was playing this through in his head when the sound of approaching helicopters swept over the calm and otherwise quiet air base. ¬†As they got closer, their gray shapes picked up the light from the nearly full moon that was poking in and out between clouds. ¬†Vasińá would have preferred to fight on a night with minimal starlight, just enough for their night vision scopes to work but not enough to be easily silhouetted; however, because of the limitations of the Pojańćki helicopters, this would have added too much risk to the operation.

          One by one, seven helicopters touched down on the tarmac, landing with remarkable position as they were guided down by flashlights.  Hoses had already been dragged out to them to ensure that they could be quickly connected and refueling began almost immediately with the rotor blades still spinning.  Only five helicopters were needed but three spares had flown along and it was a good thing because shortly into the flight, one helicopter had to turn back due to an oil leak, thus leaving the seven that arrived now with two spares.  As refueling began, the pilots and copilots of each of the seven Ma-1 Hound-A helicopters went through an exhausting checklist to make sure everything was good.  It was so exhausting because these were specially modified helicopters that were part of a pilot program to create a specially trained helicopter unit for special operations missions.  Their aircraft thus were equipped with an additional fuel tank for added range, some sound suppression gear, and a number of other small changes that emphasized quick turn around and not your average insertion and exfiltration missions.  Part of the reason one of the aircraft developed an oil leak had everything to do with the sound suppression gear fitted to the aircraft, which was something of a persistent problem.  They thought they'd had it figured out and, for the most part they had, but the suppression gear still proved to be especially taxing.  The problem rested in the engine, which had been changed for something more powerful due to the added weight of the fuel tank and the sound suppression gear.  It wasn't perfect but these Hounds were at least one-third quieter than the regular army versions.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†After a few minutes on the ground, the refueling was nearly completed and Vasińá and his men got the approval to load, which they did quickly and with little commotion amongst themselves. ¬†They'd flown on helicopters a number of times, even been in involved in their fair share of helicopter crashes so that, in their eyes, no one was going to be "devirginized" because no one on the helicopter hadn't been in a crash before. ¬†The Hounds were notoriously cumbersome to fly and over Chernarus, they'd earned a mixed reputation. ¬†Supplied from Volsci, the Hound was the workhorse of the Pojańćki Army, even though newer Ma-3 Hips were beginning to enter service. ¬†Everyone loved the Ma-3s by comparison because they were bigger, much more powerful, more reliable, and they could carry a lot of ordnance in the form of unguided rockets. ¬†The Hounds could be armed as well but if they were, that meant they couldn't carry passengers. ¬†Hips didn't suffer from that issue one bit, thanks to ample power and payload capabilities.

          Refueling hoses were disconnected and in sequence, the five helicopters lifted off of the ground and took up their formation while the two spares went through their shut down checklists, remaining on site in case they needed one of them for the exfiltration.  It was highly likely that, when they went to start the helicopters the following morning, at least one wouldn't crank, thus necessitating the need for one more of the spare helicopters.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The formation of helicopters moved low over the Pojańćki countryside, setting in a cruising speed of just 140 km/h, which was slow compared to fixed-wing aircraft but blisteringly fast compared to walking or driving. ¬†They had a ninety-minute flight ahead of them into Chernarussian territory, which meant that end-to-end, they would fly about 425 kilometers, which was almost the maximum range of the Hound without its auxiliary fuel tank. ¬†With it, they could go another 225 kilometers, thus exactly why it had been fitted in the first place. ¬†They would fly with the aid of the intermittent moonlight using the sophisticated navigation systems they had available, maps and stopwatches. ¬†They'd practiced the flight before, not necessarily over Chernarussian airspace but over Dosniman airspace and they'd been able to reach the insertion point within thirty-five seconds of the desired time, not quite the thirty seconds set as a "best time" but well beyond the sixty seconds set as the minimum necessary time. ¬†Given they had no night vision aids, flew by stopwatches and maps, and were limited on cruising speed, the pilots had achieved a monumental feat in doing so, though they'd all been handpicked to be the plank holders of whatever new unit they were forming.

          Weaving around the terrain, the pilots kept the helicopter lower than fifty meters for the vast majority of the journey.  There were a few times when the terrain would force them up a little higher but they avoided flying over one hundred meters and the moment they passed whatever obstacle stood in their way, it was back down again.  They picked up speed as necessary to maintain their time on target, the lead helicopter setting both the pace and the course while the rest followed.  Moreover, they did it all in complete radio silence, fearful that an enemy would be listening in on their comms, something not at all unfounded given the resourcefulness of the separatists.  In the cabins of each helicopter, the men were largely quiet, keeping to themselves.  It was dark in each one and light discipline was being enforced.  By and large, the men napped, as best as they could.  The cabins themselves were hot from the engine and machinery just above their heads, loud for the same reason, cramped because they'd crammed up to fourteen men per helicopter except for the last helicopter, which traded men for heavy weaponry against vehicularly reinforcements, and they smelled of burning lubricants, fuel, and metal.  The vibration of the helicopters was also especially strong in the cabin thus making them the least desirable places to take a nap but, in the absence of anything else to do, these men adapted, shut their eyes, and hoped to pass the time quickly.  No one looked at a watch, knowing precisely that, if they did so, the trip would take twice as long.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Ninety minutes later, the insertion point came into view out of the cockpit window for the lead helicopter. ¬†The co-pilot looked down at his stopwatch and saw that they were coming in thirty-two seconds late, a new record, and perfect for the mission. ¬†They were only a few kilometers away and he quickly jumped out of his chair and walked over to the small opening between the cockpit and the cabin beneath. ¬†He reached down, tapped his crew chief on the shoulder, and returned to his seat. ¬†Quickly, everyone was awoken and the crew chief positioned himself to the rear, ready to open the door with Vasińá. ¬†He would close them as the helicopter took off and ride back to base in a much less crowded helicopter. ¬†

          Behind the lead helicopter, the rest fanned out from their line astern formation and into something resembling that of a sideways caret.  They'd do this because of the way the clearing was so that all five helicopters could land at once with minimal interference of the rest.  The lead two helicopters would exfiltrate to the left while the rear two would exfiltrate to the right.  The centermost helicopter would fly forward and then turn so that all formed back up into their line astern formation to depart the area.  They'd practiced this too, coming up with the maneuver because of the heavily wooded area around them and the necessity not to lose visual reference on anyone.  It would be up to the copilots in each helicopter to track the rest of the formation.  

          For insertion, the pilots initiated a very drastic maneuver.  They moved in quickly, nearly at top speed, flared the helicopter back to bleed off speed, and then dropped rapidly before touching down gently enough that no one broke a leg but still hard enough that if you weren't holding on, you were probably falling onto the cabin floor.  That thud on the ground was the signal to open the doors and get out, which was accomplished in record time, each of the men getting out of the helicopter, advancing a few meters, and dropping down onto their stomachs.  The powerful rotor wash beat them for the few seconds that the helicopters remained on the ground and then even more so as the power increased for takeoff.  It was a remarkable ballet, rehearsed many times before this moment.  When executed, it was done by muscle memory so that each and every man performed his part just as he'd trained over and over again.  The helicopters were on the ground less than thirty seconds and then they were off, taking off and clearing the area.  The troops would remain down for a few more minutes while the helicopters flew off on a difference direction than that in which they'd flown inbound, giving the illusion that they were on a transit flight and not an insertion flight.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†After those few minutes were up and the only noise around the clearing was the ringing in the ears of each man as well as the noises of night creatures, Vasińá popped up to a knee, gave a hand signal, and everyone followed. ¬†They formed up into their squads, a total of nine amongst the five chalks, and began their hike towards the slaughterhouse where Poltanov and his men, unaware of their presence, were only just returning an evening raid mission, tired, battle weary, but also drunk on the bloodlust that combat gave them.


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Chapter V
Harbingers
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Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 02:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Zhodyebsk Region | Near Kryboksarsk

Chernarus' Zhodyebsk Region was buried deep in the Chernarussian countryside. ¬†It was closer to the Heraqi and the Leszczak borders than it was to the Mediargic Sea. ¬†The terrain itself was semi-hilly, dominated by a vast deciduous forest. ¬†It was the perfect terrain for a separatist army to play hide-and-seek with government forces and the thick canopy of the forest afforded them significant cover from air attacks. ¬†The terrain and the forest alone were a significant part of why Poltanov had been so successful all these years. ¬†The small villages that dotted the region were accessible by only one or two roads that cut through the forests and were an ambusher's dream. ¬†When Pojańćki forces first crossed the border and headed towards the Mediargic, sweeping aside Chernarus' "professional army" as if they were nothing, they'd largely bypassed the Zhodyebsk Region, believing it to be too well-defended. ¬†The Chernarussians only briefly considered it themselves and thus Zhodyebsk Region remained largely untouched until Poltanov came around and declared it his fiefdom.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Over the years, Pojańćki forces had mounted a few attempts to attack Poltanov within the Zhodyebsk Region but each had been met with successive and embarrassing failure. ¬†The few bases operated by government forces were under near constant harassment and remaining there was tenuous, at best, unless Poltanov's forces could be neutralized. ¬†Little did anyone know that tonight would be the very night that the Pojańćki military would try again. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Crossing over the rough terrain, Vasińá led the 64-man assault force as he headed up Chalk One, callsign VAMPIRE. ¬†His callsign was largely irrelevant though. ¬†From the moment that the men hit the ground, they were under strict, radio silence conditions. ¬†Poltanov was known to operate sophisticated radio triangulation equipment that he'd stolen during one of his early raids. ¬†He knew what frequencies the military used and he had used it to great advantage. ¬†Even the helicopters that flew into and out of Chernarussian territory operated under radio silence. ¬†The goal was to make sure Poltanov and his men thought that tonight was just like any other night. ¬†Vasińá and his men had eight kilometers to hike through the terrain and they needed to be there in time to do an initial reconnaissance of the target, which meant that they didn't have any time to waste. ¬†There would be no breaks along the way for rest, not that anyone would be out of breath since they were moving incredibly slowly, careful not to make much noise.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†For the first hour, they made little progress, covering only one kilometer of their journey. ¬†They were forced to stop frequently at the sound of distant noise but which only ever turned out to be some animal going about its nightly business. ¬†By 23:00, they'd moved three kilometers and they still had five to go. ¬†The five chalks continued onward all following Vasińá's lead and right behind Vasińá was the second-most important man in the entire operation, Vodnik I Klase Stanimir NeŇ°ińá. ¬†NeŇ°ińá was a veteran of not only the military but also of the Chernarussian Conflict. ¬†His squad had been one of the first squads deployed into Chernarus ahead of the invasion to conduct reconnaissance behind enemy lines. ¬†NeŇ°ińá and his squad, in the first ninety-six hours of combat, directed no less than fifty airstrikes against Chernarussian positions, virtually wiping out an entire brigade in the process. ¬†Heavily decorated already, NeŇ°ińá had been in combat since before day one and he'd remained there ever since.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†It had been NeŇ°ińá that contributed most to the planning of the operation. ¬†He'd done some of the heavy lifting with Vasińá and some of the other officers and enlisted men leading the operation. ¬†Because of his experience and the thoroughness with which he knew the operational plan, NeŇ°ińá had been declared the senior non-commissioned officer of the entire operation. ¬†He was senior to every enlisted man, even those who outranked him, subordinate only to Vasińá. ¬†If Vasińá should fall in combat, NeŇ°ińá would take up the mantle of leadership and direct officers and enlisted men alike, something which he was more than capable of doing though Vasińá wasn't keen on giving him that opportunity.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The clock passed midnight and the day from 30 October to 31 October, a day the wurld would celebrate Halloween. ¬†Halloween wasn't a significant day in most of Poja owing to the dominance of Orthodoxy over Catholicism but in the latter areas, the celebrations of Halloween took on the more joyous customs. ¬†Pojańćki Catholics would visit cemeteries and bring food and libations for their passed on loved ones, taking the time to "talk to the dead," and commune with each other on a day that was meant to honor and to remember their ancestors rather than mourn over them. ¬†Mourning was saved for other occasions. ¬†Vasińá intended for Halloween to mean something entirely different for Poltanov. ¬†A student of religious eschatology in his spare time, he resonated well with the concept of vengeful ghosts who would wander the planet all year long until they could pass onto the next wurld, seizing upon Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve, to gain one last act of vengeance. ¬†He was the ghost and Poltanov was deserving of his vengeance. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†By 01:00, they had made good progress and closed the distance to a mere one-and-a-half kilometers. ¬†The going would be slow though and it would take the next hour and then some to get into position with the last 400 meters taking over half-an-hour as they moved slowly, keeping low, avoiding being silhouetted against anything. ¬†The slaughterhouse was well protected with multiple snipers and active patrols throughout the immediate area. ¬†It meant that the chalks would need to be very careful as they moved into their final assault positions, which had been accomplished by 02:30, giving them ninety minutes to reconnoiter the target. ¬†In Vasińá's wurld, ninety minutes could go either way. ¬†It could be enough time to do what they needed to do or it could be too much time that they wound up becoming exposed or detected and were forced to abort or to launch early. ¬†Since an abort wasn't an option, launching early was their backup plan if they were discovered.


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Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 03:39 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Zhodyebsk Region, Kryboksarsk | Slaughterhouse

Reconnoitering the slaughterhouse was no simple task for the terrain heavily favored it.  To the north and to the west, which was the way Alina had escaped, the terrain dropped off into a ravine and a stream.  The only utility that the northern face held was that it provided access to the slaughterhouse via the drainage pipes that Alina had used to escape her captivity.  To the west, there was no advantage, the terrain simple sloping away too steeply to be used by the men.  From the south, the terrain itself slopped down to the slaughterhouse, which was the only direction of attack.  The terrain to the east was elevated well above the slaughterhouse but the drop nearly vertical and well over fifty meters.  Anyone rappelling would be easy prey.  It wasn't even a good spot for a sniper because the sniper had to be at the edge of the cliff to engage down into the slaughterhouse.  Poltanov had chosen his headquarters wisely, knowing that he had only defend along one road, which was a downslope, and only the south and the northern flanks.  He'd kept a watch for the eastern and western flanks rather than rest easily but the majority of his efforts were setup north and south.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Once at the slaughterhouse, Vasińá wouldn't need to give any orders on where his men needed to be. ¬†He, along with the rest of Chalk One, moved through the shadows, keeping very low, flanking around from the west and to the north so that they could gain entrance to the slaughterhouse via the drainage tunnels. ¬†Chalks Two and Three were the primary ones on reconnaissance, spread out on the southern flank where they could identify enemy positions and try to get some idea on their timings before they assaulted. ¬†Chalks Four and Five spread out into five positions at varying distances from 200 to 400 meters behind the slaughterhouse to the south. ¬†One position would cover the road and they were equipped with RPGs while the other four would cover for foot mobiles moving through the forest. ¬†One of those groups could easily reposition to the road if needed, providing a ten-man detail onto the road instead of just six.

          The waiting game that set in was the worst part.  The soldiers, poised and in position to go, would need to remain ultra quiet, ultra hidden, and ultra lucky.  Observing the slaughterhouse, they could see that Poltanov's men did maintain a good watch.  A dozen men were awake and in varying positions around the slaughterhouse compound.  One patrolled to the west on a catwalk, another to the east in a guard tower.  There were two, three-man patrols moving around the perimeter and the rest of the men were positioned around the compound.  They counted, amongst them, two snipers with rifles and the rest had assault rifles.  There was, however, two machine gun emplacements, one covering the road and the other positioned inside the perimeter.  These would all be prime targets for the start of the raid.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Active patrols were likely to be out in the forests but thus far, none had been encountered. ¬†It meant that Chalk Five had to be especially vigilant since they were the furthest away. ¬†If they were to encounter any, they would basically "tag" them in their heads and watch to see if they went away from or towards the slaughterhouse. ¬†Squad leaders would break squelch accordingly with one, two, or three rapid breaks indicating which of the three groups: VAMPIRE, WEREWOLF, or ZOMBIE. ¬†Then they would initiate one break for "enemy sighted," two breaks for "danger," and three breaks for "position compromised, launch the raid." ¬†In briefing, they'd all agreed that two breaks would immediately put every chalk on alert and in three breaks, the chalks not compromised would wait five seconds before initiating contact, which would give the compromised chalk the opportunity to open fire first, where it was most advantageous to them. ¬†The idea of hearing anyone break squelch was more than a little frightening for Vasińá because then and there he knew that the entire plan would be out of the window. ¬†Of course, no plan ever survived contact with the enemy but the longer he could go before his plan was interrupted, the more likely they would succeed. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Only the first hiccup happened long before the 04:00 "go time" and it was Vasińá's chalk who encountered it. ¬†Moving into position to the tunnels, they found the going very slow. ¬†Falling foliage from the trees meant that they had to move especially slowly so as to avoid making too much noise in the leaves. ¬†At that hour of the morning, it was especially quiet and so even the slightest noise would carry far. ¬†This wasn't the hiccup though, they'd known to expect this given the time of the year and the type of forest they were going into; rather, the hiccup was when they came up to the pipes. ¬†When Alina had escaped, the pipes themselves had been wide open and she was able to get away freely, get down the ravine, and escape. ¬†In planning sessions, Alina had identified two pipe exists and reconnaissance by the Fishbed had confirmed the same. ¬†She didn't remember specifically which pipe she'd gone out of but she remembered that she could only crawl through it.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†On scene now, with much better vision clarity than Alina's memory or a high-speed fighter aircraft, Vasińá could see that there were two pipes of identical size and that both of them were covered with thick plywood, likely a result of Alina's escape. ¬†Suddenly, they didn't know which pipe to take. ¬†In the minutes thereafter, Vasińá did his best, while keeping his head down, to figure out which pipe went which way but, in the end, he and NeŇ°ińá came to the same conclusion. ¬†"We have to split up," they said to one another though not with words but rather with hand signals. ¬†Vasińá would take the left pipe along with Bravo Squad while NeŇ°ińá took Alpha Squad down the right pipe. ¬†It would be seven men into each pipe instead of fourteen into one pipe. ¬†That meant, when they found the exit, if they encountered immediate resistance, they would have fewer men to hold off the enemy while the rest exited into the fight. ¬†It wasn't ideal but, without knowing which way to go, they had no choice.

          The presence of the plywood was another complication.  Removing it would make significant amounts of noise.  Their plan involved the team getting into the pipes ahead of the start of the assault so that they could emerge into the basement of the slaughterhouse during the initial confusion.  Now, they would need to wait for the assault to begin before they could remove the plywood, which they would need to do very quickly.  Breaching charges could do the trick but it could also collapse the pipe.  They'd brought along bolt cutters and axes but swinging an axe would mean exposing themselves.  Ultimately, their only option was to try to yank the plywood off as hard as they could.  The way it was laid over the pipe exists was beneficial in that the men could get easy handholds on the corners to yank them away.  Two men on each piece of plywood would be more than enough strength to rip it free, especially as the adrenaline of combat kicked into their bloodstream.

          The second hiccup came ten minutes later when one of Chalk Two's snipers spotted several electrical panels that could be used to turn on the lights in the compound.  If the lights went on, it would hamper the assault force's ability to attack.  This meant that the snipers now had to neutralize the electrical panels at the same time as the assault.  With four between Chalks Two and Three, they resolved to have two men work on the electrical panels while the other two worked on targets.  When the electrical panels were neutralized, they would have three men on targets while one remained vigilant on any panels they did not see.  The snipers themselves would have limited firing arcs down into the slaughterhouse, even from the southern flank, which meant that it was crucial the assault force provide them with plenty of cover.  The snipers would work top down, engaging higher targets before lower targets and then they would move onto targets of opportunity, splitting the compound into sectors so that they did not waste bullets on targets and miss someone inadvertently.  Everyone would be covering everyone else.

          The third hiccup came around 03:20, forty minutes before the assault was set to begin.  It would primarily affect Chalk Three, whose job it was to come down a natural incline near the western flank.  They would assault into the compound from the west while Chalk Two went from the east only they noticed the presence of mines, specifically anti-personnel bounding mines.  Two were immediately visible and as they continued to look, three more were spotted.  However, there was a clear path through them, which meant that Poltanov's men had traversed the incline regularly enough that there was a path through.  It would be especially dangerous but they couldn't bunch up to the east and assault, that would put the enemy response at a major advantage.  At the same time, they couldn't detonate the mines since they weren't carrying pole charges that they could easily slide down the incline to detonate them.  Chalk Three was fourteen men, which meant that everyone had to step very, very carefully.  With the clock ticking, Chalk Three's leader changed the plan.  He would send four men down the incline while the rest roped down the vertical wall face.  They would have eight men down initially then eleven, then all fourteen.  Those waiting to rope down and those already down would provide cover for those roping down, it was simply the only way.

          The fourth and final hiccup came at 03:39 when Chalk Four broke squelch.  The three rapid and then fourth break meant that an enemy patrol was sighted.  If anyone was listening on the channel that the assault force was using, they would immediately recognize the breaking of squelch and known something was up but the hiccup went only so far as what Chalk Four was seeing, a four-man patrol with a dog approaching their position.  In the few second interval between the sighting of the team and the dog, there was nothing but total silence.  Then, two breaks indicated to everyone that there was danger.  The reconnaissance mission stopped then and there.  Everyone suddenly got ready and waited, waited for two to become three, for the first gunshots to echo throughout the forest, waited to meet their inevitable fate against Poltanov's slaughterhouse and his army.


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Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 03:42 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Zhodyebsk Region, Kryboksarsk | Slaughterhouse

Crackle…Crackle…Crackle…  Suddenly and uniformly, sixty-four men held their breath.  Then came the counting.  "One, one thousand…"  Fingers moved from their safe positions into the trigger guards.  "Two, one thousand…"  Men lying on the ground dug their knuckles in and prepared to shoot up into a firing stance to rain leaded fury onto everyone below them.  "Three, one thousand…"  Chalk One moved up to the plywood and took hold, snipers steadied their breathing.  "Four, one thousand…"  Eyes that were closed were open, fingers in trigger guards went onto the triggers, everyone's eyes focused on what was ahead of them, it was go time.  "Five, one thousand…"  

          CLICK!  CLICK!  CLICK!  CLICK!

          Within a fraction of a second, four suppressed assault rifles were fired, each at a separate target.  The noise was that of the rifle itself firing, the metal smacking against metal at high speed.  The rounds themselves screamed downrange at supersonic speed, sounding like someone was banging on an empty, aluminum trash can.  The sound bounced off every tree and echoed throughout the silence of the night.  

          CLICK!  CLICK!  CLICK!

          Three more shots echoed out and the four-man patrol, dog included, dropped to the ground.  The waves of noise, barely 300 meters from the slaughterhouse, shot backwards and each and every man heard them.  The supersonic crack was unmistakable to any trained solider and no one in the slaughterhouse or surrounding it was anything but a well-trained and highly experienced soldier.  

          The initiative remained with the assault force and almost at the same time as the supersonic cracks rolled over and above slaughterhouse, Chalks Two and Three snapped to action.

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The snipers of Chalks Two and Three responded first though only my a few milliseconds.  Four shots rang out, suppressed but hardly quiet.  In this situation, the main advantage of the suppressor was the main advantage of a suppressor in any tactical situation, it hid the muzzle blast, which was a dead giveaway to where you were, especially in the middle of the night.  Poltanov's men craning their necks towards the sound and beginning to get into action were caught by complete surprise.  The first four shots put two of them down for good and turned to of the light panels into sparking disasters.  They followed up with four successive shots that brought much of the same as the grenadiers let loose a salvo of three, 64-millimeter rocket-propelled grenades streaking down into the compound.  Firing the RPGs was a dead giveaway to where the assault force was located but, by then, Poltanov's men knew where there were being engaged from so it was a moot point.

          The rockets rapidly accelerated up to 200 m/s and screamed downwards towards their targets.  Two went right into the machine gun nests, detonating their small but effective warheads.  The third took out one of the elevated guard towers, specifically the one guarding the east, where the guard was already dead.  The grenadiers quickly dropped their disposable RPG tubes and grabbed three more, aiming for additional targets, firing accordingly.  One went into the eastern guard tower again, completely destroying the leftover remnants of its observation platform.  One landed only a meter in front of a three-man patrol, detonating and peppering each of them with thousands of pieces of shrapnel, killing two outright and disabling the three.  The third RPG went into one of the vehicles, detonating on the hood and turning it into a volcano of fire as the gas tank ignited moments later.  One vehicle parked next to it quickly caught fire and a third was thrown askew by the force of the blast.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Along the incline, the four men moved carefully under the cover of the men above them. ¬†They crawled along, carful to avoid the deadly, unstable prongs of each mine. ¬†These mines were especially unstable and the use of them in an actively traversed pathway was something remarkable that only a psychopath like Poltanov could conceive. ¬†The assaulters were lucky that this was a traversed path as well otherwise they might have encountered tripwires. ¬†The mines themselves were the same kinds used by the Pojańćki military and they were especially nasty. ¬†If the prongs were disturbed that was it, they were impossible to render safe. ¬†It was certain death to whomever stepped on it and, if they were careful enough not to step off of it and not activate the mine, it was merely a waiting game until they accepted their fate. ¬†Inside the mine, a small percussion cap would detonate a mere three grams of propellant. ¬†This would force the upper half of the mine body into the air, a tether streaming out underneath it. ¬†At a height of roughly sixty-five centimeters, the tether would got taut and activate the detonator. ¬†The mine would detonate, sending lethal fragments out to one hundred meters. ¬†Anyone caught within thirty meters was unlikely to survive and anyone out to fifty meters had a slim chance of survival. ¬†From activation to detonation was less than one second, hardly enough time to do anything but close one's eyes. ¬†Nothing could protect against them and the soldiers crawling amongst them knew that if any of their gear snagged the mine, they were likely to be killed or very seriously injured, even with them crawling on the ground.¬†

          The sound of gunfire picked up rapidly as assaulters holding the ridgeline above the slaughterhouse provided cover for those moving down.  Poltanov's men, awoken from their slumbers, poured out of every doorway, quickly sighting and engaging the attackers.  From their positions they would be unable to see the men moving down the incline or the road because to get into a position to do either would be to expose their entire selves.  The assault force on the ridgeline made quick work of anyone exposed and engaged those moving through the slaughterhouse below as they ran for cover.  After the initial sixty seconds or so, Poltanov's men were reaching cover easily and that meant they would be in a better position to fire on the ridgeline.  

          On the incline, the four men reached the bottom and split into two, two-man groups and began to engage from an elevated position.  Above them, ropes dropped, anchored on trees, and four men quickly grabbed onto the ropes with their gloved hands, and rappelled down using nothing more than a simple belaying device.  It allowed them to descend rapidly instead of the traditional technique of kicking off the wall, sliding down, kicking off, sliding down, and so on and so forth until they reached the bottom.  It was only about ten or fifteen meters so they would have moved quickly but they were able to move much, much faster this way and with the first four men down, eight men were now in an elevated position, firing down onto Poltanov's men while six were above, firing from the ridgeline.  One rope was abandoned, though left in place, and three men shot down the rope, rifles shouldered.  They hit the ground, moved into position and the last three men came down.  Less than ninety seconds had passed.

          With Chalk Three now inside the perimeter and moving to flank from the west, Chalk Two was working their way down the eastern flank.  The seven-man Charlie Squad had held the ridgeline, firing down from above and keeping Poltanov's men in cover while Delta Squad's seven men moved with the benefit of cover outside of the perimeter, aiming for the main gate to the slaughterhouse.  Above them, the guard tower, having caught fire from the two RPG rounds, burned with crackles and toxic fumes.  As they reached the main gate, the men moving down the incline from Chalk Three reached the bottom of it.  So much was happening all at once and each of the chalks were moving through their own programming sequence, supporting one another.  

          Inside of the main gate, Delta Squad quickly moved to cover and engaged the nearest of Poltanov's men.  As they did, an RPG was fired across the length of the slaughterhouse compound and into another parked vehicle, which caused more of the same effect.  The men had plenty of RPGs amongst them thanks to the lightweight, disposable design.  Each man could easily carry one on his pack and these men largely all carried two so that Chalks Two and Three had, amongst themselves forty RPGs.  Chalks Four and Five had the same number, only Chalk One, designated to assault the compound from within, carried a few RPGs, only eight amongst themselves, four with Alpha Squad and four with Bravo Squad.  They largely carried them, not to use, but to replenish the other squads.

          With all of Chalk Three and Delta Squad now fully inside of the compound, Charlie Squad moved into new positions along the ridgeline to support the men below.  Charlie Squad had sort of morphed in the process.  Three of the seven men were snipers, one having gone with Delta Squad.  The other four were riflemen and they were heavily loaded still with RPGs, many having been dropped for their use along the ridgeline by the other squads, and ammunition.  From their elevated position over the slaughterhouse, they commanded excellent firing positions and while Poltanov's men had fired a significant number of rounds at them, not a single assaulter had been so much as injured yet.  This was the advantage of striking first but Poltanov's men weren't stupid.  Many, many more remained inside of the compound, which was going to be up to Chalk Three to deal with while Delta Squad remained outside.  Only a few minutes had passed, and already the slaughterhouse had been breached, Poltanov's men were on the defensive, and the assault force had retained the initiative.

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From the moment that the gunfire began, Vasińá, NeŇ°ińá, and two other men yanked hard on the plywood coverings. ¬†To their surprise, the plywood came away much easier than expected. ¬†Though formidable looking, none of the men in Chalk One knew much about basic construction techniques. ¬†The plywood covering and its braces had been put there to keep people inside of the slaughterhouse, preventing an avenue of escape. ¬†Someone in the pipes wouldn't have been able to get enough leverage, even if they were feet first, to knock the plywood free and would have been forced to go back, where they would meet certain death. ¬†Yet from the outside, leverage was easy and so as the men gave hard tugs on the plywood, the braces quickly gave way and collapsed to the ground with minimal damage to the pipe outlets. ¬†The men quickly peeked inside, just to make sure there was no one waiting for them but something else was, something much less preferable than armed soldiers.

          What came out had done so with such tremendous force that the men of Chalk One nearly doubled over on themselves before they had a chance to escape its pathway.  It was the stench, the noxious and putrid stench of death and dismemberment.  It was the stench of the slaughterhouse.  It was the stench of Alina's vomit as she crawled through the pipes, it was the stench of blood and bile and decomposing organic matter.  It was a smell that was beyond description, beyond comprehension, and beyond anything these men had ever smelled before.  They'd smelled death, had been in battles where men had been torn in half before their very eyes, but the smell coming from the pipes was something truly evil.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Each and every man dove out of the way, fully aware that they were exposing themselves, so powerful was the odor. ¬†Gas masks went on but not until some of the men, NeŇ°ińá included, let out everything that was in their stomachs. ¬†Even afterwards, everyone continued to feel queasy. ¬†Two men swore that the smell was coming into their gas masks but that might have been their own brains playing torturous tricks on them or the fact that the smell, once in their nostrils, remained.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†As the men from Chalk Three progressed down the incline and the men from Chalk Two moved into position to begin their move down the road, Vasińá and NeŇ°ińá entered the tunnels, each behind their respective squad's point man. ¬†They were in darkness, crawling through the waste products of the slaughterhouse, through the horrors that no man could ever imagine exist, even in a time of war when humanity's inhumanity was on full display. ¬†No one dared remove their mask, even as they felt the liquid mixture soak into their uniforms and their equipment. ¬†Some of the men vowed to themselves that they would walk back to the helicopters naked rather than allow that smell to follow them. ¬†No one thought a simple shower would be enough to rid it from their pores and their hair. ¬†One man thanked himself for being bald, another threw up in his own gas mask. ¬†Even hardened warriors had their limits.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Whether the left pipe or the right pipe was the right one wasn't readily apparently until the point man in front of NeŇ°ińá halted everyone. ¬†He'd come out of the darkness and stood on the edge of a shadow and craned his neck as best as he could to look upwards through the grate above. ¬†Days ago, Alina had frozen in this very spot and looked up at Poltanov himself pacing around the room, muttering to himself. ¬†And for his sins, it was NeŇ°ińá who'd chosen the correct pipe. ¬†Vasińá would find that his pipe lead to a dead end, forcing him and his men to back out of the pipe, losing precious time. ¬†By the time they'd make their way back out, NeŇ°ińá and his men would already be engaged inside of the slaughterhouse.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†But that was still several minutes away. ¬†NeŇ°ińá and the rest of Alpha Squad waited while the point man judged whether or not it was safe to proceed. ¬†It didn't take him long but he was being extra cautious for good reason. ¬†One-by-one, the seven men cross through the lit portion of the pipe and back into the darkness as they crawled through the next segments, halting whenever there was intermittent light, moving through one-at-a-time, weapons pointed upwards, in case someone saw them.

          When the point man finally reached the end of the pipes the entire, seven-man squad collectively held their breaths and listened.  The commotion inside of the slaughterhouse was tremendous and it was impossible to tell where anyone was.  Orders were being shouted, men were running around, rifles were going off, and alarms were blaring.  The dull thuds of RPGs impacting vehicles and positions reverberated through the ground, the building, and the concrete pipes.  With each impact, the pipes shook and dust particles came off of them and that alone made the men feel less comfortable being in the pipes, as if there were more things than what was in the pipes themselves that could make them feel that way.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The point man moved up to the grate and, with his back on it, nudged it up just slightly enough that he could see underneath and onto the floor. ¬†Looking for any signs that anyone was there, he held for a moment and scanned the area. ¬†There was no one and so he stood up a little more and a little more until finally, the grate was fully up against the wall and the pipe opened. ¬†He popped out, moved backwards to keep the lid from falling back down, and covered the men as they exited one-after-the-other. ¬†NeŇ°ińá, who was second out, moved up and forward, taking cover on one side of the wall while the rest of the men piled out around and opposite of him. ¬†The point man and the last man out moved the heavy lid and laid it back on the ground, leaving the pipe free and open for Vasińá and Bravo Squad.

          Alpha Squad was in and very quickly they filled out the area and moved out of the area, weapons drawn and at the ready.  Unlike the majority of men on the assault squad, Chalk One wasn't armed with assault rifles but rather they were armed with carbines and submachine guns, which offered a shorter profile and made maneuvering inside of the slaughterhouse that much easier.  Of course, all of their weapons were suppressed more to keep the bright muzzle flashes from ruining their vision.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Once out of the pipes, none of the men, except the one who'd thrown up in his gas mask pulled off their masks. ¬†The one who did, held his breath, dumped out the vomit and hastily poured some water from his canteen into it and dumped that out before throwing the mask back onto his face. ¬†It took him all of thirty seconds and NeŇ°ińá and the rest of Alpha Squad covered him while he did. ¬†From hereon out, they moved as a single unit. ¬†As they came around the room and into the caged area where Alina was held, they saw - with their eyes now - the first horrors of the slaughterhouse. ¬†Two of Poltanov's victims lay motionless inside of the cage. ¬†NeŇ°ińá couldn't tell if they were dead or catatonic. ¬†One was a young boy, staring emptily into space, his eyes wide, not blinking. ¬†No one could tell if his chest was rising or not. ¬†The other victim they couldn't make out only that he or she was curled up in a ball on the floor, also not moving. ¬†Neither of them was moving and so NeŇ°ińá continued onward. ¬†He'd ensure they were checked out later but, for now, he couldn't do anything for them, no one could.¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Moments later, as they advanced down the corridor, the gunfight began. ¬†It was NeŇ°ińá who fired first as one of Poltanov's men exited a room from the right of the corridor, assault rifle in hand, springing into action. ¬†The loud report of NeŇ°ińá's carbine echoed throughout the slaughterhouse and everyone knew that the "enemy" - in this case the assault force - had made it inside. ¬†Outside, Delta Squad was spilling into the slaughterhouse perimeter and Chalk Three was working their way down. ¬†Poltanov's forces suddenly found themselves besieged not just from above and outside but inside as well, which was a nightmare scenario.

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Belanov shook his head in a feeble attempt to stay awake.  He'd left the slaughterhouse just before 22:00 and headed to the nearby town of Chistolovka where he kept his "mistress" Polina, a sixteen-year-old girl whose parents had died under "mysterious circumstances," that is they were killed by Poltanov's forces for refusing to give them money.  They didn't just leave behind Polina though, they also left behind her four-year-old brother Fyodor, at which point Belanov swooped in with money and gifts to keep food on the table, the lights on, and the two of them clothed.  For Polina, the sacrifice she made was for her brother and she loathed every moment that Belanov was in her presence.  He'd taken her childhood from her and taken everything else possible.  She was the pariah of her town and treated like one by the other men and women in the town but, she didn't care much for them, no one had lifted a finger to help her or her brother out of their own cowardice.  Still, she didn't see Belanov as a savior or as anything other than a barbarian who she had to tolerate to get food and medicine.

          On this particular night, Belanov's little adventure meant that he wasn't in the slaughterhouse when the raid happened.  Now he was driving back to the slaughterhouse, much drunker than he'd anticipated.  Polina had been in "high spirits," or so he thought.  She'd plied him with extra vodka, secretly hoping that he would crash his car and die on the way back.  Belanov had difficulty saying no to the drink and so he drank everything she poured for him, which was more than enough vodka for any man, even someone who was as much of an alcoholic as Belanov was.  Polina's plan was, in some ways, working.  Belanov swerved all over the road, struggled to keep the car straight and his head up as the alcohol lulled him to sleep.  Had the road not been so pockmarked with craters from disrepair and neglect, he might have already fallen asleep at the wheel and wounded headfirst in a tree.  Belanov would never wear a seatbelt, something Polina knew and counted on, hoping that he would speed to the slaughterhouse, lose control, and get ejected.  She wanted a gruesome and torturous death for him and she gave him enough vodka to see that it would happen.

          Yet tonight wasn't to be her night.  Belanov, for all of his struggles, managed to keep the car on the road.  He'd slowed down, something uncharacteristic of him, and he was managing to keep himself awake.  At one point, he rolled the window down, hoping that the cool night air would shock his system and it was when he did this that he could hear the tremendous firefight in the distance.  What the Hell?  He thought to himself, stopping the car to get a better listen.  They're under attack!  The thought came moments later and Belanov punched the accelerator only the adrenaline started coming into his veins and he rapidly began to sober up, no longer swerving all over the road, no longer giving into Polina's plan.  She would have to wait for another night, or would she?

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Hotel Squad with it's six men were deployed to watch the road. ¬†Thus far, everything had been quiet for them. ¬† Then suddenly, headlights appeared in the distance and ҆tab Vodnik Anatoliy Vodovatov, the squad's point man, quickly grabbed for the disposable RPG lying next to him. ¬†Everyone else in the squad saw what was approaching and readied themselves. ¬†If Vodovatov's rocket missed, they would light up the car with their assault rifles. ¬†It didn't matter who was in it, no one coming to the slaughterhouse was a friendly, especially not on this particular evening. ¬†Well concealed in the foliage, the six men, three on either side of the road, leveled their sights to where they would engage while Vodovatov stood up to a crouch. ¬†Where he was in the stack meant that no one was behind him, thus giving him the knowledge that his backblast area was always clear. ¬†He looked down the sight and his finger held above the trigger. ¬†The car was still about 800 meters away but closing fast and weaving through the turns in the road. ¬†The rocket itself only had an effective range of about 250 meters, meaning that Belanov would have to come much closer than he was. ¬†Vodovatov had fired dozens upon dozens of these RPGs in his military career and tonight would be no different than all those times before.

          Belanov never saw a thing.  He came around the turn, his headlights pointed away from where the men were and passed into Vodovatov's sights.  Vodovatov didn't hesitate for even a microsecond and he mashed down on the firing button.  What should have happened wasn't what happened though.  Instead of barking and sending the 64-millimeter rocket downrange, nothing happened.  He kept tracking the car with his sights and pushed on the firing button again.  Nothing, not a thing, just quietness as Belanov closed from 300 to 250 to 200 to 150 meters.  "Dud!  Dud!  Light him up!"  He shouted and that was all of the encouragement that the rest of the team needed.  Four assault rifles and one squad light machine gun opened up with a fusillade of bullets that tore through the entire front of the car.  Belanov never saw a thing.  

          Rounds tore through the windshield, the front grill, and the sides of the car.  Between the five men, they'd unleashed nearly a hundred rounds, the vast majority of them hitting the car.  Steam immediately billowed from the radiator, rapidly replaced by smoke as fluids poured out of the engine block from cracks and shredded hoses.  The windshield, that had once been a flat and otherwise smooth piece of glass was peppered and shattered, full of holes, as the bullets tore through it and kept going, tearing through everything in their path as they made their way out of the back of the car.  Rounds entering the sides just kept going themselves, tearing through the door panels and the fenders, turning the seats into clouds of fabric and doing even more damage to the vehicle's structure.  Belanov never felt a thing.  His body went limp and his foot fell off of the accelerator.  The car's momentum carried it another 150 meters but the road decided which way it would travel.  It shot past the six men, including the discarded rocket launcher that Vodovatov had thrown away, and slammed into a tree.  Belanov's body was ejected right through the shredded windshield and he lay on the hood, a bloody and stationary mess.  Smoke continued to billow from the car and Vodovatov and another man quickly moved to the vehicle to check it and its occupants out, to make sure that everyone was dead.

          It didn't take them long.  Belanov was the only occupant and half of his head was missing with blood splattered all inside the car.  "Good enough for me," Vodovatov remarked as they turned around and went back to their position only now, because they'd engaged a target, they had to reposition themselves.  They moved a little further up the road where the cover was good and dug back in, waiting for any additional reinforcements.  They didn't know that Belanov was alone, didn't know that he'd been with his "mistress," didn't know that no one else was coming.  The town was too far away to hear the gunfire and, even if they did, they would hardly come to the rescue of their oppressors.

          By this point, the firefight inside of the slaughterhouse was reaching a crescendo but outside, holding the rear security, all was quiet for Chalks Four and Five.  They hadn't identified any additional patrols except for the first one and Belanov's death had been the big event thus far.  Yet, they had a crucial job to do.  They couldn't abandon their positions to get "in on the action" lest they let a massive reinforcement group flank everyone from the rear and kill the assault force.

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Chalk Three had made its way down and into the main perimeter of the slaughterhouse.  Using effective, covering fire, they'd managed to leapfrog forward and pin down Poltanov's forces inside of the various auxiliary buildings in the compound.  Though Poltanov's men had the cover of being indoors, they were sitting ducks and for Chalk Three and Delta Squad, this was an ideal scenario.  Swimming in RPGs, they let loose a number of them into the open doorways and the sides of those auxiliary buildings, achieving casualties with each hit.  The firefight inside of the slaughterhouse meant that those who were pinned down wouldn't be getting any relief either.  Unable to get enough exposure to lob grenades, Poltanov's men were confined to simply shooting their weapons inaccurately from cover, which only let the assault force close to within throwing range on their own.  

          The first grenades into the open doorways would be fragmentation grenades and because of the distance they were thrown, they went off almost immediately upon entering or hitting the floor.  The massive damage they did was followed up with several concussion grenades, which carried more high-explosive filler for less emphasis on fragmentation and more emphasis on destruction.  Whatever men survived the fragmentation grenades quickly found themselves moving onto the next life.  Almost immediately, the shooting stopped as the men holding the doorways were killed or driven back.  This allowed four-man fireteams from all three squads, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot, to advance up to the doorways.  They lobbed in more fragmentation grenades followed by stun grenades, which, with their short fuse, detonated almost immediately inside.  

          The three fireteams breached the doorways, moving rapidly into the interiors of the auxiliary buildings, were bodies lay strewn about from the grenades.  Two men from each fireteam pointed their weapons into the building to provide cover while the other two ensured that everyone on the ground was dead by pumping two rounds into the heads of everyone on the ground, unless of course their heads were hidden underneath their crumbled bodies, at which point they aimed for where the heart would be and fired.  No one moved or came to life, the grenades having done their job.  They proceeded further, moving as a four-man units, rapidly stacking up against doorways, throwing in stun grenades, and breaching, clearing rooms in seconds, killing everyone inside.  This was what they trained to do and with their rears being covered, each fireteam found themselves moving rapidly through the buildings, room-to-room.  They'd stack up on a door, move in and start clearing, reset their order, stack up on another door, move in and start clearing, reset their order, and so on and so forth, moving fluidly.  

          Poltanov's men got off pop shots here and there.  Some managed to avoid the effects of the stun grenades thanks to good cover but they didn't last against the four men coming into the room in rapid succession.  Though trained in room clearing themselves, these men had never gone up against the kinds of troops they were facing.  One auxiliary building, breached by the fireteam from Echo Squad, was cleared in four minutes.  One man was wounded but that was it.  Foxtrot Squad took a little longer but the results were more of the same.  Delta Squad, on the other hand, faced the toughest resistance.  They'd been stuck approximately halfway into the building and forced to take cover against particularly strong resistance.  Calling for support over the radio, men from both Echo and Foxtrot Squads arrived but not quickly enough.  One man was killed and two others wounded in the close quarters firefight yet Delta Squad held and weren't overrun.  As Echo and Foxtrot arrived, grenades pushed back an advancing hostile group of three and the overwhelming firepower silenced several others.  Dragging the dead and wounded away, men of Delta Squad regrouped outside where medical attention was given, ceding the assault to Echo and Foxtrot, eight men versus at least two or three dozen yet, it would not go well for Poltanov's men.  Each man in Echo and Foxtrot knew precisely what each other would need to do.  They'd trained to know the same tactics, conduct the same maneuvers, so that there was no need for orders or coordination, they just did what they knew to do and the others knew precisely what to do to support them.  

          Echo moved to flank the hostile forces while Foxtrot provided cover.  More grenades were thrown and at one point, one of Poltanov's men got lucky with a grenade of their own but it came soaring back to them, detonating midair, stunning a few men but nothing more.  The flanking took a few seconds and now put Poltanov's men at a disadvantage to fight against two separate fields of fire.  As they withdrew backwards, they ran right into another four-man fireteam composed of Delta and Foxtrot men who'd remained outside.  Effectively surrounded, they put up fierce resistance but, without good cover, they were slaughtered.  Two men tried to surrender but this was a "no prisoners" mission and neither one of them did anything other than expediate their own deaths.  After nine minutes and forty-three seconds, the only men in Poltanov's army that remained in the fight were those inside of the slaughterhouse.  

          With one killed and four wounded amongst Chalks Two and Three, the only casualties thus far, the assault force was in very good shape.  Over the radio, the leader of Chalk Two reported the casualties up to command and the helicopters, which had repositioned during the night to be only thirty kilometers away, took to the skies.  Of the four wounded, two would remain in the fight while the other two would need medical attention.  One had a round go underneath his vest and cut through his gut while the other took a round through the shoulder.  They'd live, that was for sure, but they weren't in any shape to keep fighting.  Moving to cover within the perimeter, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot squads regrouped.  They had twenty-one men amongst themselves when the fight started.  Now they were down to eighteen but, in reality, they were down to sixteen as two medics worked on the casualties.  That was more than enough to continue their mission and they broke up into two, eight-man squads under Echo and Foxtrot.  The new Echo squad would remain near the casualties and provide cover while the new Foxtrot squad repositioned to make entry into the slaughterhouse.  Charlie Squad had focused mainly on firing down into the compound and they had a prime view of the entrance to the slaughterhouse, which meant that anyone who came out was dropped very quickly.  Grenades had kept the curious at bay and a few RPGs had reinforced the point but that meant the men inside of the slaughterhouse, raring to come out, were dug in and waiting for the assault force to breach.  

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NeŇ°ińá and Alpha Squad had gotten pinned down very quickly. ¬†They'd advanced out of the pipes and into the main corridor, engaging one of Poltanov's men right away and then several more before everyone knew that the assault force had breached the slaughterhouse and, more importantly, they knew precisely where they were. ¬†Alpha Squad had been forced back towards the pipe room and the caged area, which afforded them good cover but they were in a confined space against an enemy that didn't need gas masks to operate. ¬†Trading shots and keeping constant pressure on Poltanov's men, they were largely able to keep the enemy from advancing but, in turn, they were stuck right where they were too and they were sitting ducks. ¬†Engaging Poltanov's men, who had just as good cover and concealment meant that most of the shots fired weren't meeting any targets. ¬†

          Then the grenades started and neither side had any advantage over the other.  Alpha Squad had thrown the first ones, tossing fragmentation grenades into doorways and over countertops.  These had good effect and almost immediately, they used this to advance on the enemy but they only got so far before grenades forced them back into their previous positions as something of a stalemate set in between the two groups of soldiers.  It wouldn't last for long though.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Hustling through the pipes, Vasińá and Bravo Squad found themselves coming through the lit areas just as Poltanov's men were marshalling and, able to fire up through the floor, they managed to take out some of Poltanov's men before hustling through and continuing through to the opening. ¬†They poured out of the other end and very quickly there were fourteen men in the basement of the slaughterhouse. ¬†NeŇ°ińá was more than happy to see Vasińá and his men arrive and very quickly, the fourteen men became three, four-man fireteams with a two-man security element. ¬†In rapid succession, a fresh volley of grenades were thrown and the fireteams advanced with them, using stun grenades to suppress Poltanov's men from throwing their own grenades. ¬†The first four-man fireteam poured into one of the nearest rooms and quickly eliminated six men inside, five of whom were feeling the effects of the stun grenade. ¬†The sixth was lucky and happened to be looking away at the time. ¬†

          Continuing the advance, they moved deeper into the basement, catching two men by surprise.  They happened to be focused on the floor grates, firing down into the pipes, expecting more men inside.  They hadn't seen the assault force and before they realized it, they were crumbled ragdolls on the ground.  More grenades, more room clearing, and Chalk One was pushing deeper and deeper into the basement, working their way to the stairs.  Alina had only seen a small part of the basement, not the vastness of it.  She hadn't seen the second doorway behind the room with the torsos on hooks but Chalk One did and, closing through the room, checking to make sure no one was hiding, they pushed forward, identifying the stairs and setting up a four-man team to guard it while the remaining ten men pushed into the other part of the basement.  Poltanov's men were waiting and as they came around the turn, a wall of gunfire greeted them.  Two men went down right away, wounded but alive.  Being dragged away, they returned fire as the rest of the men poured covering fire down the length of the corridor followed by more grenades.  

          The grenades were enough to break the enemy's position and it allowed the men to move out, reposition themselves behind cover, and start driving at the enemy.  Stun grenades were thrown and Poltanov's men were thrown off-kilter by the concussive and blinding effects of the grenades.  Quickly dropped, Poltanov's men regrouped behind a set of swinging, double doors that had been propped open.  More grenades, more covering fire, more pushing, and Chalk One was through the open double doors and suddenly face-to-face with Poltanov, the Devil himself.  Poltanov, with his heavy body armor and RPK poured fired towards Chalk One.  Quickly, everyone was behind cover as rounds tore through the air.  There were nearly three dozen men within twenty meters of one another, all pinned down except for one man, Viktor Poltanov.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Grenades!" ¬†NeŇ°ińá shouted above the pounding of the RPK and six grenades went soaring into the air, all of them fragmentation ones. ¬†Three came their own way, two of which landed harmlessly in front of their cover but one did not. ¬†It was not three meters from NeŇ°ińá and as it went off, Vodnik Besim Grobelnik dove on top of it, smothering it with his body. ¬†Alpha Squad's sniper, Grobelnik had only been with the unit for six months before the raid and he'd seen combat in Chernarus. ¬†Twice wounded in 1968 and 1970, he'd always come back to the fight but not this time. ¬†The pineapple-looking grenade detonated with a loud thud, Grobelnik's body rising at least fifty centimeters off the ground. ¬†His torso took the brunt of the blast, which tore his body armor to shreds, peppering his body with thousands of pieces of sharp, jagged, hot shrapnel. ¬†When he landed, he wasn't moving anymore and though his eyes were open, death was sweeping over him. ¬†The assault force was safe but they needed to break out immediately lest most grenades come too close to them.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasińá, throwing his rifle over cover, sprayed a full magazine towards Poltanov and his men. ¬†They were still in cover themselves but as a couple popped up to reengage from their own grenades, they could Vasińá's rounds. ¬†NeŇ°ińá followed and with the cover of more grenades, pumped the rest of his magazine into Poltanov's chest, sending the man backwards though is vest caught nearly all of the rounds. ¬†So pumped was he on powerful stimulants, he never felt the rounds, not even the few that went through him where his body armor wasn't covering him. ¬†Men alternated, continuing to pour fire towards Poltanov and his men while NeŇ°ińá rapidly reloaded. ¬†When he was done, he popped back up and took aim right at Poltanov, put his sights on the man's face, and fired four rounds. ¬†The first two missed, the third caught him with a graze across his cheek, and the fourth went through his neck. ¬†NeŇ°ińá didn't stop though and he continued to pump rounds, one after the other, right into Poltanov's largely unprotected face and neck. ¬†The man crumpled down onto the ground and his men quickly faded one after the other whether from grenades or gunshots. ¬†These were the last men in the basement and with Poltanov dead, no matter who survived, they could not continued his reign of terror.

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Just as Poltanov and his men were having their grand ending, Foxtrot Squad was stacking up on the doors leading into the slaughterhouse, four men were side.  Poltanov's only remaining fighting force was thirty men hunkered onto the first floor with plenty of cover and concealment.  The entire rest of his militia had been wiped out in the nearly eighteen minutes of fighting.  The assault force was largely doing good on ammunition still though grenades were running low.  Within the men of Foxtrot Squad, they had a half-dozen stun grenades, four fragmentation grenades, and two concussion grenades remaining.  It was enough but they'd started with much, much more.  They ditched their RPGs to lighten themselves up and announced their presence with two stun grenades and two fragmentation grenades.  Peering around the corner of the wall, they managed to get off a few shots before Poltanov's men, who were largely unaffected by the grenades, returned fire and prevented them from entering.

          When two grenades rolled out, the men dove away and though some took shrapnel, no one was seriously injured.  Charlie Squad, holding the ridge, dropped two of Poltanov's men who ran out daringly, hoping to kill the men as they recovered from the grenades.  That left twenty-eight more and for Foxtrot Squad, this course of action wasn't going to be sustainable.  They stacked back up on the door but now with only one fireteam, the other putting themselves at a further distance.  If grenades came out and one fireteam dove for cover, the other would move up and provide protection against anyone trying to work their way out, though with Charlie Squad still on the ridge, there was more than enough firepower aimed at the doors.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†What really hurt Foxtrot Squad was the layout of the slaughterhouse. ¬†The doors faced the steep, vertical face of the cliff, meaning that they couldn't back up and get a better angle on the doors. ¬†This meant the best they could do was stack up on the door, peek around, and take potshots at Poltanov's men. ¬†It was yet another stalemate at the slaughterhouse. ¬†But, just like the rest, this one wasn't going to last either. ¬†Regrouping after the slaughter of Poltanov's men, Chalk One split again into two teams. ¬†Vasińá and four men opted to stay in the basement, where they would conduct a thorough search for any hiding hostiles - not that there were any though they couldn't have known this at the time - as well as to check on the civilians. ¬†This left eight men under the command of NeŇ°ińá to move to the stairs and flank the remaining twenty-eight men of Poltanov's militia. ¬†Coordinating by radio, Foxtrot Squad kept the pressure on Poltanov's men but made sure not to pour too much fire into the building.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Leading them was the injured but still capable ҆tab Vodnik Ilija LukŇ°ińá. ¬†He'd been one of the two men hit by Poltanov's men as they came around the corner. ¬†One round had hit his vest and been caught while the other cut through his arm but it had gone clean through. ¬†Mustering the strength, he led the men, with NeŇ°ińá immediately behind him, up the stairs. ¬†They were at the backs of Poltanov's men. ¬†NeŇ°ińá broke squelch twice and Foxtrot Squad responded with a single break. ¬†There would be no more potshots from Foxtrot Squad and as Poltanov's men waited to defend the next round, LukŇ°ińá, NeŇ°ińá, and two more men moved out into a line and rapidly began opening fire on the ten men in the corridor facing the front door. ¬†They were behind cover but exposed to their rear and without any rear security, they were sitting ducks. ¬†Eighteen men remained.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†NeŇ°ińá broke squelch two more times and once again, he was acknowledged with one and Foxtrot Squad's first four men entered the corridor while the rest of NeŇ°ińá's squad moved out of the stairwell. ¬†The remaining eighteen men were hunkered down in the last room uncleared in the slaughterhouse, the room that was used as the mess hall. ¬†Four men from each squad stacked up on opposite sides of the door with four men covering their rears, Foxtrot the front door and NeŇ°ińá's men the stairwell. ¬†The size of the room was significant and as the point man from each squad looked in, tons of fire men them as they snapped their heads back to cover. ¬†This would take extra effort to clear but these men had done this before.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Two men were pulled off of each security detail and the number two and three man in both stacks each armed themselves with grenades, eight grenades in all. ¬†The first two were stun grenades, followed by a pair of concussion grenades. ¬†These were thrown up into the air so that they would detonate above the cover being used by the men inside. ¬†Four fragmentation grenades followed two detonating in the air and two on the ground. ¬†The successive blasts rocked the room and as the last one went off, the two stacks of men poured into the room. ¬†NeŇ°ińá's men went right, alongside the parallel axis, stacking up so that they were firing into the room. ¬†Foxtrot Squad went to the left going to the perpendicular wall so that they were firing in a V-shaped funnel into the room. ¬†They went into the room alternating one after the other, the first two men engaging the nearest and most obvious threats with the rest coming in behind them, pumping rounds into anyone they saw, sure to keep their muzzles pointed in a sweep V towards the center of the room. ¬†It was all over in less than twenty seconds, eighteen men dead and the last gunshots of the firefight. ¬†Silence fell over the slaughterhouse and the region, Poltanov's men lay dead all around the compound. ¬†For the assault force, they had two dead of their own and six wounded, four of whom were ambulatory. ¬†Poltanov's reign of terror was finally done.

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Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 05:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Zhodyebsk Region, Kryboksarsk | Slaughterhouse

Vasińá stood in the center of the compound. ¬†The first twinkles of sunlight had come up only a few minutes earlier. ¬†Over the past forty-five minutes, he'd been directing the assault force in a operation known as "sensitive site exploitation" or intelligence gathering. ¬†Helicopters had come in quickly to collect the wounded and the dead. ¬†Vasińá ordered the chalks to take inventory of their weapons and he directed the repositioning of Chalk Three to provide additional rear security for the time being, leaving just Chalk One and Chalk Two at the slaughterhouse, at least until backup arrived. ¬†That happened at 04:45 and was in the process of happening again as now two companies of paratroopers, 139 men each, had been choppered to the slaughterhouse. ¬†They'd been ordered onto standby three days earlier, unaware of why or for what reason and when the raid kicked off, they'd been moved to the same airbase just thirty kilometers away.

          With the first company moving into position, that freed up Chalk Three to return to the slaughterhouse while the second company would meant that Chalks Four and Five could move to the slaughterhouse.  The deployment of paratroopers was unnecessary given that there were no hostile forces for at least fifty kilometers but - again - no one could have known this at the time.  This was why there wasn't just 278 paratroopers holding rear security but also a quartet of Fitter attack aircraft circling overhead ready to unleash their ordnance on any hostiles identified.  

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†For Vasińá, the man who'd lead the assault, these moments as the sun rose were moments of tranquility. ¬†With a cigarette hanging from his lips, he ignored the stench on his clothes from crawling through the pipes or the basement of the slaughterhouse. ¬†None of the men seemed to care much about the smell anymore, having received more than enough during the firefight to be almost immune to it. ¬†The smell of gunpowder and explosive materials hung in the air as well, perhaps singing their nostrils and blocking them from smelling anything further. ¬†As the helicopters came in, bringing the paratroopers, Vasińá watched one-by-one as they unloaded and were directed into the forest around the slaughterhouse. ¬†Everyone had questions, everyone wanted to know what had happened, who were these men who were covered in filth, who'd just fought an insane battle. ¬†Where were they?

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†For his part, NeŇ°ińá was leading the intelligence collection efforts inside of the slaughterhouse. ¬†Poltanov's body was recovered, zippered into a body bag, and loaded onto an outbound chopper. ¬†It took three men to carry him. ¬†No one knew about Belanov yet but they would eventually when Chalk Four reported on the location of the destroyed car. ¬†Vasińá identified the body himself a few minutes after finishing his cigarette, though it wasn't easy to do given the otherwise poor quality of the photo they had and the mangled condition of Belanov's bullet-riddled face. ¬†The fact that the back of his head was missing didn't help either.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Belanov's body would be left, it being of little to no use unlike Poltanov, who was the face of this despicable army. ¬†Returning back to the slaughterhouse after the identification, Vasińá found himself walking through the perimeter, looking at the swath of destruction. ¬†A casualty collection team would be by eventually to collect the bodies and bring them for processing. ¬†Forensic units would come by to collect as much information about the slaughterhouse as possible before engineering squads were brought in to ensure the place was nothing more than a crater. ¬†In those future explosions, the horrors of the slaughterhouse would be cleansed by over a hundred kilograms of Semtex. ¬†Yet that was still hours and days away. ¬†Vasińá was in the now, watching as his men comb through the facility, gathering whatever valuable intelligence they could find. ¬†In truth, they were hoping to find Poltanov's own intelligence collection files, knowing that he'd kept tabs on many of the other separatists groups operating in Chernarus. ¬†Whatever they could find that could help them defeat the separatists would be invaluable though it would take weeks and months to sort through everything from the slaughterhouse. ¬†By then, the country would know of the demise of Poltanov's army and the separatists would celebrate along with the Pojańćki forces.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The sun rose that morning, its rays casting lights upon the entirety of the slaughterhouse compound. ¬†More and more became visible about the extent of Poltanov's army and their headquarters. ¬†Mines previously unseen were seen, boobytraps uncovered, and miraculously no additional casualties were taken. ¬†Some of the men, who happened to be better students of history, would think to themselves that Poltanov was nothing more than the reincarnation of the barbaric King Gazjon, a 15th-century Heraqi ruler who had perpetrated mass genocide within the Kingdom of Heraq and the surrounding areas. ¬†An adherent of the older, pagan faiths, Gazjon spent his entire rule exacting revenge upon the Catholic and Orthodox lands around Heraq, killing everyone. ¬†The roads into and out of the kingdom were littered with bodies, many of the dead crucified in the most heinous display of inhumanity in all of Poja's history. ¬†Poltanov's actions would come in second. ¬†Vasińá was one of those students and thought about Gazjon as he rummaged through drawers and cabinets in the auxiliary buildings, looking for nothing in particular except to give his idle hands something to do.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Inside of the slaughterhouse, NeŇ°ińá and his men were completing their intelligence collection and NeŇ°ińá was making sure that each and every man was announced for, ensuring that no one was forgotten. ¬†With three men by his side, he would perform a last sweep just before the sun officially rose over the horizon at 06:57. ¬†In the basement, he stepped over corpse after corpse. ¬†In the room where Poltanov had made his last stand, he stood there and looked down at the bodies piled around the room, one in particular catching his eye. ¬†This particular soldier had caught a round through the eye and likely died instantaneously, falling to the ground where a pool of thick blood formed underneath the back of his head. ¬†NeŇ°ińá shook his head and wondered how someone so young could commit such horrors. ¬†The two captives that he had bypassed earlier in the fight were dead, one of them likely by suicide as a piece of bloody glass had been found nearby. ¬†The cause of death of the other would need to be review by a coroner. ¬†Those bodies had been removed on the first helicopters, their identities unknown.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†NeŇ°ińá sighed as he looked down at the dead soldier, the gaping hole where his right eye was staring up at him. ¬†NeŇ°ińá didn't know it but he'd been the cause of his man's death and though he was nameless to NeŇ°ińá, he'd been known as Anton to Alina. ¬†He'd been her salvation and she'd been his demise, poetic justice for all of the crimes that he'd committed, the slaughters he'd attended, the innocents he'd harmed. ¬†Shaking his head one last time, NeŇ°ińá turned around and with the men by his side, left the basement and checked the first floor. ¬†The last man out of the slaughterhouse, NeŇ°ińá watched as the assault force gathered with their many bags of collected intelligence and came alongside Vasińá. ¬†The two men shared no words with one another since none could be said to describe the horrors that they'd witnessed. ¬†Instead, their eyes said it all. ¬†Helicopters arrived minutes later and the first of the men and their intelligence departed. ¬†It would take fifteen minutes for the entire assault force to depart and as Vasińá's feet left the ground and the helicopter took off, he looked down and saw the new on-scene commander, a paratrooper major. ¬†The man looked up and saluted, which Vasińá returned. ¬†It was a cathartic moment for Vasińá, who walked away from the open ramp of the helicopter and took a seat amongst his men, his rifle between his legs, covered in God knows what from crawling through the pipes. ¬†In that moment he felt numb.


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Chapter VI
Paradise Lost


Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 09:40 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Zhodyebsk Region, Kryboksarsk | Slaughterhouse

Polina wore her best outfit, a dress her dead parents had bought her for a now-canceled school dance and a pair of platform loafers that had seen better days.  With her hair done up and a little bit of makeup applied, she left her house amidst a commotion of villagers who mulled about, wondering what had transpired throughout the night when waves of gunfire echoed from the direction of the slaughterhouse.  Chistolovka was not three kilometers away from the slaughterhouse and why it had suffered so tremendous amidst the fury, wrath, and inhumanity of Poltanov's army.  It had been awoken shortly after the battle began and those who had slept through it hadn't slept through the arrival of helicopters.  Since dawn, the men - and the women - had been milling about outside, talking with one another, theorizing what happened, wondering if it was safe to go explore.  The general theme was that nothing was safe and no one should go anywhere.  Polina had other plans.

          Telling her younger brother to stay inside and lock the door behind her, she put on her coat, and left the house, defiantly ignoring the calls of the village men who warned her not to go to the slaughterhouse.  Head held high, she didn't bother listening to them and as she left the village and walked down the potholed and damaged road between Chistolovka and the slaughterhouse, the men followed in her wake a hundred or so meters back.  Fear had paralyzed Chistolovka since Poltanov's rise to power and rightfully so, his army had absolutely tortured the village and the villagers.  Whenever the soldiers came into the village, they were there to terrorize and placate their bloodlust.  They would pick men and women at random, make them do sick and horrifying things for their own pleasure and entertainment.  If the "show" wasn't up to their delight, there were consequences.  If they got bored, there were consequences.  If everything was to their liking, there were consequences just for the sake of having consequences.  Poltanov's men were unpredictable in the best of times and complete monsters in the worst.  Polina's own life was a testament to the latter and the villagers didn't see her as the victim but rather as the harbinger of their suffering.  Little did they know that Belanov's personal tastes for Polina often spared the village the worst of everyone's wrath.

          As Polina walked the windy road towards the slaughterhouse, the sounds of the forest drowned out the chatter and footsteps of the growing crowd behind her.  It seemed that she, and only she, had the courage to head to the slaughterhouse.  In her head, she could only think upon those who followed in her wake and think how weak and cowardly they were.  Polina was sixteen, a half, a third, a quarter of their age and she had more courage than all of them put together.  Some men, she thought to herself, if we had men Belanov and Poltanov would never have tortured us.  The thoughts came now as they did every day and every night.  Not much else went through her head during the walk.  She trusted that her brother was safe, that he'd followed her instructions and that was her biggest concern now as it always was.  She's shielded him from Belanov's fury, taken the brunt of his brutality, drunk or sober, it didn't matter, he was cruel to her either way.  When he was drunk, he at least tired quickly, the only saving grace.  She was going to kill him one day, had tried the night before by getting him good and drunk for the drive home.  

          She didn't know if it would work or not and if it didn't, she'd planned to acquire some poison and slip it into some food or a drink.  Deadly mushrooms grew all around Chistolovka.  Her weapon of choice would be mushrooms known as Cortinarius orellanus and Cortinarius rubellus.  She'd gather enough, chop them into tiny bits, cook them, and then wait.  Her parents had told her about them when she was younger, told her never to collect them because they were deadly but not right away.  If you ate them you wouldn't know for days or even weeks and then they would kill you.  It would be perfect to protect her and she'd serve him enough to guarantee his death but not enough to implicate her, lest she be directly punished for his death.  Weeks were preferable to days even though seconds were preferable to all else.

          But on this fateful morning, Polina knew it wouldn't be necessary.  She'd been awoken by the sound of gunfire, by the helicopters the following morning, she'd heard the explosions, and she knew.  She knew that the end for Poltanov had come.  It was why she'd worn her best dress, why she'd done up her hair and her makeup.  She wanted to treat this like a special occasion.  She'd never wear this dress for the school dance, that life had long since ended.  Instead, it would be her celebration over Belanov, over Poltanov, and over the years of torment.

          As she grew closer, Polina looked up and realized that the sky was cloudless and a brilliant shade of blue.  The sun was shining strongly and all around her, sunbeams flittered through the trees.  Animals unseen made their noises as birds soared around above and in front of them, zipping through the trees and the canopy above, as if they too were celebrating something.  Mother Nature was celebrating, Polina thought to herself as she saw something material in the far away distance, perhaps four or five hundred meters away.  She instantly knew what it was and hardly tried to suppress the smile that crept across her face.  Her step gained a little skip and her gait quickened.  There, ahead, was Belanov's vehicle, smashed against a tree.  Was he inside?  Had he been thrown from the wreckage?  Had he been killed?  Had her plane worked after all?  Had she murdered her torturer?  Questions swirled through her head as she left the men behind her who walked even slower at the sight of the vehicle.

          Polina wasn't concerned with their cowardliness anymore and she closed the distance quickly, stopped maybe five or so meters from the car.  She saw it riddled with bullets and she saw the corpse on the hood, not the first one she'd seen.  She'd seen the aftermath of the rage of Poltanov's men on her village, the maimed and shredded bodies that had been torn apart by rifle rounds or sliced from end-to-end with machetes.  She knew what death looked and smelled like and she wasn't afraid of it anymore.  Careful where she stepped, she walked around to the front of the car and stood close to it but still far enough away that her dress wouldn't come in contact with the car or the blood that had dripped down the side.  She looked into Belanov's lifeless eyes, through the holes in his face, saw that the back of his head was gone; and in that moment, she felt overwhelming relief and joy.  Straightening herself up, she looked at Belanov and said loud enough for him to hear it, had he been alive, "I hope it hurt.  I hope you felt each and every bullet.  May you be tortured in Hell the way you tortured me.  Each and every day.  Maybe you feel the pain you caused me every minute of every hour of every day.  If I could kill you all over again I would."  And, in her final act of defiance, she spat right in his face and then, drawing herself back, turned on her heels, and headed back towards Chistolovka.  

          The men had stopped, fearful to close the last one hundred meters to Belanov's car.  They too recognized it and feared for the fate that lay ahead.  Polina, held head high, strode towards them with a smile from ear to ear, a smile she couldn't suppress, not that she wanted to do it.  In a way, she still had some innocence left to her.  She hadn't been the one to kill Belanov and though she'd consciously decided that she would, she hadn't and thus she hadn't committed murder, the gravest of sins.  Everything else that had happened to her, that had stripped her of her innocence had not been of her own free will and accord.  That innocence had been stolen from her.  She hadn't given away any of it and so she could feel good about herself in that she still had some shred of humanity left, she wasn't a murderer.  

          As she approached the men, she didn't bother to stop and they parted so that she could pass through them.  "What did you see?"  One of them asked as she passed between them.

          "Go look for yourself you cowards," she hadn't stopped, "our imprisonment is over, you can tell your children and your grandchildren that you were strong, that you were tough.  You can lie to every generation that you did something.  Go," she still hadn't turned around, her voice carrying though, "go and see what the sun has brought.  Or are you too scared?"  It was her last words.  By nightfall, she'd packed up everything there was to pack, stripped everything out of the house worth saving, shoved it neatly into her parents' car, and with her brother beside her, left Chistolovka for good.  If the men had gone to the slaughterhouse she didn't know, hadn't paid them any mind as she walked to and from the car that she didn't know how to drive.  Ignored their words, knowing all too well how they'd treated her all this time.  If she'd have killed Belanov perhaps she would have killed them too but she hadn't and so she wouldn't.  Her future wasn't that of the grim memories of Belanov or Chistolovka.

 

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Sunday, 31 October 1971 | 10:45 hrs [UTC-3]
Osinova, Adjinua, Poja | Osinova Army Base

Kapetan Goran Vasińá stood across from Vodnik I Klase Stanimir NeŇ°ińá, the two men standing at attention just in front of the doors leading to the mortuary office at Osinova Army Base. ¬†Snaking in a long, seemingly endless line was every other man who participated in the assault and every other man in their unit. ¬†Those who'd been wounded were there as well save for those who were medically unable. ¬†They stood there at attention and saluted as two, flag-draped body bags were carried from the ramp of a helicopter and into the mortuary office. ¬†The first body bag to pass contained the body of ҆tab Vodnik Tsikhamir ҆avel who'd been killed early on during the assault. ¬†The second was that of Vodnik Besim Grobelnik, who'd dove onto a grenade during Poltanov's last stand. ¬†Grobelnik's death had saved the lives of everyone around him, thus he gave the ultimate sacrifice. ¬†With tears in their eyes, Vasińá and NeŇ°ińá saluted the men who'd died during the assault that had left six others badly wounded and dozens more injured in some way, shape, or form. ¬†In truth, no one who assaulted the slaughterhouse would escape injury for the mental wounds would never heal. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Holding the door open so that the bodies could be brought into the morgue was none other than MarŇ°al Vasiljevińá himself, who'd found his way to Osinova once the assault began. ¬†He listened to the radio comms throughout the battle and stayed with it through the entire time. ¬†He'd been the first to greet Vasińá on his return and insisted on staying to honor the dead, something that the PPOV had done since its inception. ¬†Vasińá had insisted on it, insisted that each and every man who died in battle receive this "final reception" upon returning home. ¬†Everyone in the unit would turn out, no exceptions, save for those who were medically unable and even they often tried, sometimes doing so from their own hospital rooms far away from the base until they were shoved back in bed. ¬†Sedation was usually the only way to prevent a wounded PPOV soldier from trying to honor the dead after a mission.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†When the bodies had passed in, the salutes were dropped and the men headed back to their barracks. ¬†There would be debriefings and everyone knew it. ¬†Squad leaders would work with their men and then bring that information up the chain of command. ¬†It would be hours before anyone began to unwind and the particularly long night became a particularly long day. ¬†It was just how it went; it was what made the PPOV so effective. ¬†Of course, they would be standing down for a few days to unwind, to unravel what they witnessed, to process, to decompress, if that was even possible. ¬†Vasińá wasn't sure he'd never process or decompress what he saw and as the men broke up around him, Vasiljevińá stepped forward, now wearing the uniform of his position. ¬†"Kapetan," he held a salute and then held out his hand, "no one wants to lose a man. ¬†It can't be helped though. ¬†They will be taken care of, I assure you."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"I expect nothing less sir," he answered not in a sarcastic or commanding tone but one of understanding. ¬†The two men understood one another and Vasińá knew that the army would take care of his men and their dependents. ¬†He'd have to write up their deaths of course and process the paperwork, a grueling task but the army would see to it that they were taken care of properly, respectfully.

          "Poltanov is dead.  His army has been wiped off of this planet.  It's a small consolation prize for the lives of two men but the wurld is a better place because of it.  You and your men accomplished what no one had been able to achieve.  It's a testament to the training, professionalism, and expertise of this unit."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Thank you sir," Vasińá answered as they began to walk away from the morgue. ¬†Behind them, following at a respectful distance was NeŇ°ińá. ¬†He wasn't listening, he wasn't necessarily part of the conversation but he was present. ¬†"What's to come of everything now? ¬†Of the target?"

          "The site is secure for now and besides, based on the reports I saw, I don't think we have to worry about looters, not that there's anything left to loot.  A larger unit will move into the AO tomorrow morning and secure it for combat engineers.  They'll turn the entire site into rubble and dust and with it every and any memory of the heinous crimes of Poltanov and his army."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"Good," Vasińá imagined the fireball rising over the slaughterhouse, burning the entire place in the process. ¬†"If we had nukes, I'd suggest dropping one sir."

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasiljevińá chuckled slightly, "I'm not sure even that can erase the memories of that place from this wurld. ¬†But rest assured Kapetan, they'll make sure nothing remains. ¬†You and your men will get some needed time off after this."

          "We'll need it sir.  I'd love to tell you that we're ready to go for the next round but I think everyone's going to need some extra time on this one.  I've never seen or smelled…"  His words cut off there, "Sir, I think the extra few days will be good," he corrected himself.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†"There's no shame in talking to someone after this Kapetan. ¬†The army has resources. ¬†This wasn't some engagement with a squad of insurgents. ¬†This is uncharted territory Kapetan. ¬†Don't bury this one." ¬†Vasiljevińá's words were unusual to hear. ¬†He hadn't been there but he'd been apprised of the details before Vasińá had ever returned. ¬†He knew what he was talking about and he knew the kind of effect it would have on the men. ¬†He held out his hand and shook Vasińá's once more before saluting and leaving him to be with his final words. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasińá stopped in his tracks and watched as the marŇ°al departed. ¬†NeŇ°ińá closed the distance and came up beside him. ¬†"How am I ever going to talk about what we saw?"

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†NeŇ°ińá didn't know what to say, didn't know how to say it. ¬†He couldn't even find a place for gallows humor in a time like this. ¬†"I don't even know where to begin. ¬†I'm going to have nightmares about this the rest of my life." ¬†He wasn't wrong. ¬†He would. ¬†The mission had changed him, had changed each and every man in the outfit. ¬†Most would remain in the unit throughout the remainder of the war, some even beyond its end, helping to reshape the PPOV for the future. ¬†As for the rest, this would be their last mission. ¬†NeŇ°ińá would hang around for a few more years, parting ways with the military in 1975 after twelve years but he'd never been the same again. ¬†No one would. ¬†In the years to come, PPOV reunions would start off jovially and then become somber affairs as the men discussed who wasn't with them anymore. ¬†Those who couldn't reconcile with what they saw would end their lives through suicide or drugs, those who could, would struggle each and every minute of each and every day for the rest of their lives. ¬†The slaughterhouse could have been a case study for severe PTSD but even then, it would have been an outlier. ¬†War was horrible to all those who were swept up in it but what Poltanov and his men did far exceeded the horrors of any war. ¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Six months after the mission, Vasiljevińá would again return to Osinova Army Base but this time to hand out medals. ¬†He'd notice that the scars of the battle still remained with each and every man. ¬†The wounded and the dead would receive the Order of Sacrifice, NeŇ°ińá, several key soldiers, and every leader would receive the Gold Star Medal, the nation's third highest award. ¬†Vasińá would receive the second highest, the Order of the Trivalińá Cross along with ҆avel, though his was posthumous. ¬†The nation's highest away, the Order of the Pojańćki Stars would be awarded posthumously to Grobelnik, who's sacrifice saved the lives of many men around him. ¬†Nothing more could have been asked. ¬†The vast majority of the men would receive the Medal of Valor for heroism exhibited during the operation.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Vasińá would retire in 1978 and disappear quietly into the Liari countryside. ¬†He lived alone and died alone sometime in the winter of 1994, his body not found for several weeks after his death, the cause of which could not be determined. ¬†NeŇ°ińá would hang on much, much longer but cancer had caught up with him in 2021. ¬†It would be a battle he couldn't, wouldn't, didn't want to win. ¬†He'd devote his post-military life to peace activism, so scared was he by what he saw in the slaughterhouse that he'd never be the same again.

 

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Friday, 15 October 1982 | 04:17 hrs [UTC-3]

"Why didn't you save me?  Why did I have to die?"  The woman stood at the foot of the bed, her throat slashed open and her eyes missing their irises.  Her clothes were stained with human excreta and blood.  Her hair was singed and her voice weak but clear.  "Why was it me?  You didn't try.  Why did he save you?"  She was an apparition, a figure that seemingly stood at the foot of the bed and watched and spoke, her voice haunting, echoing throughout the silent room.  "I'll never forgive you!"  Then there was the scream, a scream so piercing, so tremendous, that the bed vibrated and the whole room shook as if there was an earthquake.  

          "No!"  Alina shot up, her body covered in a cold, clammy sweat, her heart racing 150 beats a minute, her chest heaving.  She shivered amidst the dampness and immediately began to cry.  

          The nightmares had started a few years after the incident, started on the anniversary of her escape from the slaughterhouse and had waxed and waned since.  They were always the worst on 15 October, on the day that it happened, on the day that she'd been captured.  Sometimes she was trapped in the basement, trapped inside the cage alone, sometimes with those who'd been in there with her.  They always stared at him, their catatonic expressions staring at her.  Sometimes they spoke but their mouths never moved.  Sometimes they had no mouths, or eyes.  Sometimes they were hanging above her from meat hooks. Sometimes she was able to jimmy the lock open and escape.  These were some of the worst nightmares.  She'd run and run and run and never get free.  But the absolute worst were these, when she saw the woman who'd been taken away just before Anton had freed her.  Sometimes Anton preceded the woman and sometimes he didn't.  It was always worse when he didn't.

          In October 1978, Alina had forcibly kept herself awake for days on end.  Her body would shut down on her but only for seconds or minutes before it startled awake as she saw those nightmares.  For days and then weeks and then months the nightmares had been constant.  What was so significant about 1978 she didn't know nor did the doctors.  Alone and incapable of holding a job, she tied herself a noose after nine weeks of constant nightmares.  She didn't remember much else from that night and woke up days later in a hospital, her arms restrained to the bed.  "What happened?"  She asked the nurses but none would answer her.

          "You've been very agitated.  We've had to keep you sedated," a doctor finally told her.

          "Am I dead?"  She asked.  "Am I in Hell?"

          "You're very much alive Alina."  The doctor answered.  He seemed compassionate.  "Why did you try to kill yourself?"  She told him, told him about the nightmares, about the insomnia, about the struggles.  He seemed compassionate.  

          Four years later Alina was still a patient but she wasn't in a hospital anymore.  She was alone.  She had no future.  She had no job.  She only had her nightmares and the medicines that did nothing but put her back to sleep where the nightmares lived.  "When I'm awake I'm afraid.  When I'm asleep I'm terrorized," she explained.  She thought the doctor was compassionate.  "What can I do?"

          "There is no cure for you," the doctor said, his voice hollow.  "These hallucinations won't go away.  They'll never go away.  It's just part of you now."  The walls sometimes talked to her.  The pills made it worse.  Alina Donskoy had been a bright, young girl in 1968 and then the war came.  Years later, her brother had run away, gone into hiding.  Her father and mother had been murdered.  On 15 October 1971, she'd been thrown into a putrid cell in the slaughterhouse and made to suffer for hours upon hours while death awaited her.  Then, in a sliver of compassion, a boy she'd known from school took pity on her and set her free.  She thought she was free and she'd never be free again.

          She'd never found her brother, perhaps he'd never looked for her.  Cast away, alone, she lay in bed each and every night now, waiting for the pills to send her to her nightmares, wishing she'd never been freed by Anton.

 

The End


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Edited by Poja (see edit history)
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